USA Today Sports/James Snook

Cougar football: Breaking down WSU middle linebacker Peyton Pelluer’s game with the "coach" who knows him best: dad Scott Pelluer

COUGAR MIDDLE LINEBACKER Peyton Pelluer's father, Scott, is a former Pac-10 linebackers coach and he played the 'backer position both at Washington State and in the NFL. But he's also a dad. So out on the football field, does Scott look at his son like a dad would, or like a coach does?

Both.  But the dad view wins out in the end.  CF.C recently asked Scott to break down his son's game in the lead up to the Holiday Bowl on Tuesday (4 pm, ESPN).

Pelluer wasn’t an unknown quantity coming out of Skyline High in Sammamish in the 2013 class. In addition to Wazzu, he held offers from Oregon State, Colorado and ASU.  But there was always a caveat in recruiting circles on Peyton: that he played stiff at times, that he might be a half-step too slow to become an upper tier Pac-12 linebacker.

Yet here he is, with a bowl game plus his senior WSU campaign still to come, and the facts speak volumes about the player: Pelluer has led the Cougars each of the past two seasons in tackles, he's been named Pac-12 honorable mention twice and he'll end the 2016 season among the Pac-12 tackle leaders, just as he did in 2015. 

The “coach” who knows him best, Scott, matter-of-factly says there are other college linebackers more athletically gifted than his son. But Peyton, he adds, has accomplished what he has by relentlessly working at the game of football. And then he goes back and works some more.

Alex Grinch has said this, that Peyton gets the most out of his skills set, athleticism and body type than most players do,” said Scott. “He’s really conscientious, that’s probably the best thing to say about him … His linebackers coach, Ken Wilson, has told me he’s a great student of the game and Peyton really listens to what his coach is saying and then goes out and applies it. And Peyton told me last spring he really appreciates Coach Wilson, because he’s made him a much, much better linebacker.”

Scott was an outside linebacker at WSU but he played all of the ‘backer positions over his WSU and NFL careers. He also coached all the linebacker spots in a college coaching career that included stops at Washington, Arizona and Boise State. But few things compare to seeing Peyton represent WSU while wearing No. 47.

“You couldn’t draw it up any better, I feel really fortunate as a father that he’s wearing my number. We get to experience the whole thing and it’s like coming full circle -- my wife (Kim) and I both went to WSU and it’s an absolutely amazing deal for us to be part of it. We traveled 12 straight weeks this year to games, every WSU game … we’re very blessed,” said the elder Pelluer.

SCOTT WAS A 6-2, 215-pounder in his playing days on the Palouse.  Peyton, conversely, checked in this season at 6-0, 235. How would Scott compare Peyton to himself as a player?

“I was more of a finesse guy, a pass rush guy off the edge who relied on his quickness and speed. Peyton relies more on his mind and his strength, to be able to get off blocks from those big son-of-a-guns, that’s probably the biggest difference right there. He’s a stronger, smarter version of me by far,” said Scott.

In addition to the intangibles (preparation, student of the game, nose for the ball)  we asked Scott what Peyton’s best X’s and O’s attribute is on game days.

“A great first step -- that’s what all really good linebackers have ... The coach in me, I see a lot of linebackers take the wrong first step. Peyton is almost always in the right spot and no matter how they try to throw him off be it a counter, or a screen,” said Scott.

Speaking of screen passes, former WSU inside receivers coach Dave Yost during fall camp in Lewiston in August 2015 told Scott something that had the proud papa grinning.

“Yost said, ‘When Peyton’s out there, we can’t throw screens. Every screen we throw Peyton goes and screws it up. We have to run the screens when someone else is in there,’” said Scott.

NEXT SEASON, the No. 1 on Peyton's to-do list is to improve in coverage and get his hands on more passes -- and in the process become a linebacker who stays on the field no matter the down and distance.  He got an early jump on that in the latter half of 2016.

“He’s been inches away on a lot of things … it’s just anticipating the route maybe a split second earlier … these last few games he’s been out there on all three downs and he’s played really well … I know because I’ve asked how he’s graded out, and he’s graded out really well,” said Scott.

Scott of course has been coaching Peyton all his life, and he formally coached Peyton in both football and basketball growing up. He said Peyton has always had two things on the gridiron: a great nose for the ball and a deep hatred for losing.  It took a while for Peyton to move beyond the Colorado and Apple Cup losses this season and focus on the Holiday Bowl, said Scott.

“He takes losses, like the ones to the Huskies this year, really, really hard -- it was crushing to him,” said Scott.  “He’s been very cordial to everyone, the cousins and aunts and uncles, but he took it really hard. It really bothered the heck out of him … He puts a lot into it, he studies more than the average Joe, and (winning at WSU) means the world to him.   And I couldn’t be more proud of him, with how conscientious and passionate he is about the game. That’s all you ask for as a dad.”

Peyton will enter the Holiday Bowl seventh in the Pac-12 at 7.4 tackles per game. The two players immediately above him average 7.5 and neither is playing in a bowl game.

Scott was offered by Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State coming out of Interlake High in 1977.  The 6-2, 215-pound linebacker ended his WSU career ranking among the all-time leading tacklers in WSU history and still ranks No. 7 all-time in sacks at WSU (19.0). “The Huskies told me I was too small. I’m thankful for that because I love WSU and had such a great experience there,” Scott said.

Scott not only coached at the UW, his son Cooper (Peyton’s brother) played for the Huskies.  Scott’s younger brother Steve was a record-setting UW quarterback in the ‘80s.  Peyton is a fourth-generation Cougar football player.  In addition to Scott, grandfather Arnie played end for the Cougars from 1953-55 and was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams.  Great-grandfather Carl Gustafson played fullback and linebacker for the Cougars from 1925-27. He was dubbed "King of the Campus" for his heroics in WSC's 9-6 upset of Washington in 1926.

From second grade until after his sophomore season at WSU, Peyton was the poster boy for buzz cuts.  “We had no idea he had curly hair,” Scott quipped. “He did tell me he cut three inches off last week. It kept catching on his helmet.”

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