Youthful Su'a steps into role of wily ol' vet

PULLMAN—Washington State linebacker Chester Su'a leans strongly to the shy side when it comes to interviews. He dutifully answers every question, but the words are shared judiciously. That could be changing this season, however, because the sophomore-to-be figures to be getting lots of air time with reporters as the unexpected elder statesman of the Cougar linebacking corps.

"Chester's the one guy in that group who's played significant downs at linebacker," WSU linebackers coach Jeff Choate told CF.C. "I think he's a playmaker who has a natural feel for the game. There's still plenty of details that we have to correct but I've been pleased with his overall performance thus far."

And while soft-spoken off the field, Su'a has shown no reticence in the early going of spring workouts in vocalizing his leadership on the field.

Su'a is suddenly at center stage because the meat of last year's linebacking corps is gone. Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Mike Ledgerwood have graduated, and C.J. Mizell and Sekope Kaufusi are gone due to off-field team rules violations. Collectively, that's a loss of 30 game starts, 214 total tackles and 20 tackles for loss.

Of the linebackers currently on the roster at the SAM, WIL or MIK, Su'a is the main man. He played in all 12 games last season, starting four of them at the SAM spot, and racking up 22 total tackles and one fumble recovery.

The only other returning "veterans" at the three spots (excluding the new BUCK 'backer in the Mike Breske system) are middle man Darren Markle, who played in five games and posted three stops last season; walk on Cyrus Coen, who posted nine tackles in 2011, and linebacker-turned-running back-turned-linebacker Eric Oertel, who registered 13 tackles last year.

Coen will be a true sophomore this season, Oertel a true junior and Markle a fourth-year junior.

The rest of the SAM/MIK/WIL group is all youth and inexperience, led by returning freshmen redshirts Darryl Monroe and Tana Pritchard, and followed by a host of walk ons, including two running backs – Jared Byers and Kyle Lappano – who have been moved to LB this spring.

SU'A TOLD CF.C that seeing action last year, even though it was on a limited basis, makes him hungrier than ever to work hard this spring.

Under defensive coordinator Breske's new 3-4 system, players are adjusting to the switch, but Su'a tells CF.C he's happy with what he's seen thus far.

"We have a lot of installs on our side of the defense," Su'a said. "We're pretty young as a unit, but I feel like we're picking up the system pretty quickly and we're doing well."

The team will be in pads this afternoon for the second consecutive practice though it remains to be seen if they go full pads, or shoulder pads and helmets as they did on Day 3.

"That's the exciting part right there," Su'a said. "I like that when we put on the pads you get a better sense of who's going to play and who's not."

The Hawaii native is listed at 6-1, 226 pounds but he looks to be bigger than he was last season. He's a quick runner at his size, and has been flying to the ball early on this spring.

Su'a provides plenty of athleticism, but how does his style of play match up under Breske's system and in Choate's group?

"It fits great," Su'a said with confidence. "The defense is pretty simple and there's not a lot of confusion out there. We just have to learn the plays. I'm coming out here and I'm 100 percent confident in my abilities and confident in myself."

Choate told CF.C that Su'a isn't the only one that has impressed him early on. He said he's been extremely pleased with the early play of Coen, Monroe and Oertel.

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