Ken Wilson insights on Coug LBs and ... QBs?

SPOKANE – Ken Wilson says the atmosphere this practice week at Washington State will be charged, especially when it comes to his two senior linebackers who play on Saturday their final game for the Cougars: Cyrus Coen and Mitch Peterson. Meanwhile, Jason Gesser at the Spokane Cougar Club luncheon talked about someone who will have every Cougar fan filled with emotion on Saturday – Steve Gleason.

Mitch has already graduated and Cyrus will graduate in May,” Wilson told the gathering. “For them, this will be their last game against Washington, their final game at Martin Stadium and their final time on the field with their teammates. It will be a special time for these young men.”

Wilson talked about the time last season when his linebacking corps were depleted and he needed bodies. He went up to Peterson, who was playing safety at the time, and said “Mitch, we need you to play outside linebacker.

“You have to understand Mitch,” he said, smiling. “He’s got the long, blonde hair and a big smile. All he said was ‘Whatever you need, coach.’”

Coen, too, has been a special player for Wilson.

“Cyrus only stands about this high,” Wilson said, holding his hand out at shoulder height. “If Cyrus were to walk into this room and sit down, you wouldn’t know he was a college football player. But I will tell you this, nobody runs around a football field the way he does.”

FORMER COUGAR QB and WSU radio color man Jason Gesser opened Monday’s luncheon by telling the crowd CouGreat linebacker Steve Gleason would attend Friday’s Apple Cup game, where he is to be inducted into the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame. Gleason is the sole member to be inducted this year.

Gleason was a four-year letterwinner, a two-time team captain and a three-time All-Pac 10 honoree at Washington State. He went on to play in the NFL for seven seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

As all Cougfans know, in 2011 Gleason was diagnosed with ALS and since that time he and his foundation, Team Gleason, have become international leaders in raising awareness of the disease and improving the lives of those afflicted with it.

Gesser said that it had been tricky arranging to get Team Gleason to Pullman for the honor because of his condition.

“It’s appropriate that Steve will be there for the Apple Cup,” Gesser said. “He’s the one who taught me about the Apple Cup.”

Gesser then told the story about running the scout team his freshman season for the first practice of Apple Cup Week, one he also repeated on Bill Moos' radio show (you can find the article HERE).

WILSON INSISTED HE doesn’t pay a lot of attention to the Washington State offense, especially during games. He keeps his back to the field while working with his linebackers group. Between games, he keeps his attention on the next opponent’s offense. Still, he is the area recruiter for WSU Class of 2015 QB Tyler Hilinski, and had offered some insight into the starting quarterback battle next season.

“I will tell you this: I pride myself on being the first one in the office on Sunday morning. I’m old and I don’t sleep that much. But that first Sunday morning, when I unlocked the door, the door to Coach Leach’s office was open and Luke Falk was in there already studying film –- and he already knew that Connor Halliday was going to be the starting quarterback for the season.

“If you’re going to beat Luke Falk out as the starting quarterback, you’re going to outwork him. And I don’t (know if) anyone can.”

WILSON SPOKE BRIEFLY about three true freshmen defensemen -- linebackers Greg Hoyd and Chandler Leniu and defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa, saying all three could have played this season and contributed to the team.

“We’ve had enough depth at linebacker this year that we’ve been able to let those two redshirt and develop this year,” he said. “We had conversations about Hercules playing because he’s such a good pass rusher. But because he’s only about 225 pounds, we decided to let him develop as well.

“The conversation about whether or not to let a freshman get on the football field is ongoing all the time. It always starts with whether or not that player can help us play football in the Pac-12 Conference. Gabe Marks is a perfect example of what that conversation is like. Gabe Marks has already proven that he can catch passes at this level. But we made the decision that it was more important to let Gabe get 100-percent healthy and get him ready for next year.”

WILSON ALSO TALKED about his approach to defense.

“To me, the most important thing is third-down conversions,” he said. “You have to be able to stop teams on third down. If you can hold a team to three-and-out, you’re going to have a lot of opportunities to score points.

“If you look at the first half we had down there at Arizona State, we had good field position and we held them to 0-6 on third down and got four three-and-outs in the first half. In the second half, the field position situation changed and they were able to have more success.”

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