For Cougs' Monroe, would less equal more?

THE COUGARS AS of Saturday morning had only held two spring practices where shoulder pads had been worn. Just two sessions where there's been hitting going on. But in that limited time frame, something has already become immediately clear.

WSU linebacker Darryl Monroe is off to a hell of a start.

CF.C's man on the ground, Michael-Shawn Dugar, tells me other linebackers are also making plays. But Monroe is the clear stand out through four sessions, says Dugar, with big hit after big hit. The 6-1, 230-pounder, says Dugar, has brought the wow factor in the last two padded practices.

And that brings up an interesting point. Linebackers coach Ken Wilson told CF.C the day before spring ball began that one of his goals this spring was to find a guy, or at least start the process of identifying a guy, that can ably play at the middle linebacker spot besides Monroe.

"Darryl took a lot of reps last year and he got worn down a little bit," said Wilson. "So we're going to try and spell him here and there."

The operative word in that sentence is "try." There's a fine line between getting your starter some rest during a game, and not having your best guy out there. Also, if Monroe is going to come out for some turns, it's going to be because Wilson has real confidence in the guy he's sending out there.

Maybe that guy is Chester Sua.

SO FAR THIS spring, Sua has lined up at second team MIK each of the four days. Sua is listed as a WIL on the depth chart but Wilson trains his guys to play all three spots, with Sua's primarily emphasis on the WIL and MIK.

But if Tana Pritchard shows he's ready to be a rock solid, everyday starter at the WIL, maybe Sua becomes a super sub at the MIK this season. Just maybe Sua is one of the very few that could be subbed in for Monroe with little to no drop-off. Or maybe Sua becomes a super sub at both the MIK and the WIL.

Meanwhile, backup MIKs Peyton Pelluer and Dylan Hanser will also have something to say about that.

BUT BEYOND THE personnel, it's a dilemma. You never know when injuries will occur or when the law of diminishing returns may pop up. Not until it's already upon you.

Let's assume Monroe continues his great spring and then does the same in fall camp and on into the season. How hard is it going to be to take this guy out of the game, even for only a little while, while he's tearing it up? On the other hand, Monroe was playing pretty good last year too, right up until he got dinged up. And his production and impact went down thereafter.

Is Monroe playing, say, 80-85 percent of the snaps for 12 games a price you pay, rather than risking him playing 99 percent of the snaps for, say, 7-8 games? Such are the questions that compel early in spring.

The Cougs are holding a normal practice session on Saturday and will not be engaging in one of the three official scrimmages allowed in spring ball. CF.C will be back later with full coverage.

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