WSU Linebackers: Fall Camp Preview

WASHINGTON STATE has removed the SAM linebacker from their base defense in favor of a nickel back but the linebackers group will still feature storylines aplenty when fall camp kicks off in Lewiston on Aug. 8. For starters, there’s the WIL position.

Athlon and others have said indications from the spring were that Alex Grinch plans on blitzing more from the WIL position than the Cougs did last year. Jeremiah Allison is the headliner of the WSU linebacker group headed into fall camp and should fit nicely in such a role if the Cougs go that route.

A vocal leader, the 6-2, 224-pound Allison often shines brightest when in pursuit of ballcarriers trying to run away from his side. He was second on team last season with 78 tackles -- 69 coming after he became a starter in the fourth game. Allison was also third on the team with 8.5 tackles-for-loss including 3.5 sacks.

Next to Allison is MIK Peyton Pelluer (6-0, 224, pictured above) who climbed past Darryl Monroe last year to become the starter. Pelluer has been steady during his time with the Cougs but the question is if he’s ready to bring his game to a new level as a third-year sophomore – his read and react time should diminish from last year after seeing extensive playing time in ‘14.

Those two, particularly Allison, are good bets to be in the starting lineup on Sept. 5 against Portland State. But it’s a free for all behind them.

Frankie Luvu (6-2, 219), Greg Hoyd (6-1, 225) and Chandler Leniu (6-0, 250) will get long looks in fall camp. Luvu came to WSU raw but he could end up as a strong backup to Allison at the WIL after getting some special teams work last season. Linebackers coach Ken Wilson would love to sub in Luvu (or someone else) without missing a step and to keep Allison fresh.

And while Luvu may be the future at WIL, he still has to get past junior Paris Taylor (6-3, 206) in ‘15, who was listed as the No. 2 WIL behind Allison on the post-sprog depth chart. Parker Henry (5-11, 205) was put on scholie this spring, and is another contender for turns on Saturdays.

Meanwhile, Leniu ran at the MIK this spring, as did Hoyd. Both are very physical and can turn in explosive tackles but each also came out of spring ball needing to further work on their technique. If it clicks for either of them in fall camp, they could conceivably challenge Pelluer. Leniu was listed as the No. 2 on the depth chart at the MIK, while Hoyd was not listed. Walk on Nate Derider (6-1, 204) also saw time at the MIK this spring.

The wildcard in all of this is Aaron Porter. The 6-3, 230-pounder is a JUCO transfer and UCLA bounceback and is extremely versatile, so much that he could play any of the linebacker spots. Fall camp will determine if he can earn a starting job or significant turns -- which in turn could end up being one of the tipping points this season on defense.

Dylan Hanser (6-4, 214) played in four games as a true freshman on special teams last year but didn’t make as much noise as did others this spring. The best bet for the walk ons to earn significant playing time is probably Kyle Newsom (6-2, 230) who showed consistency this spring at the WIL. If and when the Cougs move out of their base and put a SAM in play, Newsom, Taylor, Henry or even a particular RUSH linebacker could man the spot.

The BUCK is gone and in its place for 2015 is the RUSH linebacker. How different that spot will look in ’15 under new outside linebackers coach Roy Manning, how much the RUSH plays with his hand down, all that remains to be seen. Kache Palacio and Ivan McLennan were listed as –OR—on the depth chart here with McLennan getting some early run when the Cougs went with a SAM in the spring.

Based on last season, Palacio would have to be favorite coming into fall camp after posting 57 tackles and 9.5 tackles-for-loss. But McLennan this spring was getting off the snap faster than he did last year. Palacio checks in at 6-2, 227 while McLennan is 6-4, 236. Reggie Coates (6-0, 237) walked on at WSU from Nevada last year and made some plays this spring (particularly against the pass). He merits keeping an eye on, whether at linebacker or as a d-end in WSU’s sub-packages.

Logan Tago (6-4, 225) and Nnamdi Oguayo (6-4, 215) are incoming true freshmen and could be fitted for redshirts. Tago can play either linebacker, safety or something else while Oguayo likely projects as a RUSH, though he could line up elsewhere in ’15 given that he’s listed at 6-4, 215-pounds.

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