WSU Chalkboard: Breske breaks down BUCK

OFFERING MULTIPLE LOOKS on defense has become a requisite in today's game. Fast-paced offenses with running QBs are commonplace, and they're scoring big numbers against even the saltiest of defenses. One of the best ways to effectively cross up an offense is with the BUCK linebacker in a 3-4. WSU defensive coordinator Mike Breske broke down the BUCK linebacker spot recently with…

As noted in an earlier piece, Mike Breske said Destiny Vaeao will move exclusively to defensive end this spring.

Lyman Faoliu will also move back to defensive end, (though the versatility he brings to the table means he could play BUCK if Breske and Co. decide to go that way.)

But if all goes according to plan, there will be both a wide open competition and reasons for optimism this spring at the BUCK spot, and there look to be three leading candidates when the Cougs open spring ball.

"Kache Palacio got most of his snaps there last year," said Breske. "And then you've got Ivan McLennan, who we redshirted. He was a tremendous recruit for us out of El Camino in Southern LA. He'll come in this spring competing at the BUCK.

"And then Emmitt Su'a-Kalio, who we also redshirted last year, will also be competing there."

ON PAPER, there might be some concern among CougFans that Palacio, (listed at 225 pounds last year), might be a little light to play that BUCK spot consistently and effectively. Fortunately the game isn't played on paper.

Palacio had 49 tackles this past season (26 solo) including 6.5 for loss. He logged four sacks (second on the team) along with four QB hits, two forced fumbles, two pass break ups and a fumble recovery. Keep in mind he "started" but six games and was a frequent sub in and out of the lineup.

The reason Palacio was effective, and why from this chair he should reach greater heights in 2014, is not only because of his talent, (though that is obviously key.) Breske's defense allows the BUCK, when played properly, to make plays all over the field.

When Palacio stands up, the QB has to account for him in coverage and as a pass rusher. With his hand down, the quarterback has to be concerned that Palacio's burst and speed gives him a natural edge against a tackle.

But Palacio will also have competition this spring.

McLENNAN CAUGHT Mike Leach's eye in the early bowl practices that focused on the youth. The decision to redshirt him last year could pay dividends the next two seasons for the Cougs.

At 6-4, 244-pounds, McLennan was the Cougs' scout team defensive player of the year this past season and he adds a run stopping presence. He had a terrific spring but there were also times then and in fall camp he over-committed to the pass rush and let a poor play seep into the next snap. He spent the regular season improving, and the big question now is if he is ready to shine on a consistent basis.

Su'a-Kalio is the wildcard -- at a wildcard position. The 6-4, 245-pounder showed a knack for getting to the quarterback during the Thursday Night Football sessions this past season, (and he could also develop into a d-end.)

Wherever Su'a-Kalio finds a home in 2014, he's representative of how Breske can potentially gain the upper hand in the pre-snap read. Breske can use the BUCK in a five-man pressure out of a three-man front, he can drop seven into coverage while still (hopefully) bringing heat through his four-man fronts who, on occasion, will stunt. And that's just for starters.

The multiple looks the BUCK allows Breske, and their effectiveness, figures to be one of the key defensive storylines authored by the likes of Palacio, McLennan and Su'a-Kalio this spring and offseason.

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