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Linebackers coach Ken Wilson has something this spring and in Year Five he hasn't had before at Washington State

COUGAR LINEBACKERS COACH Ken Wilson has something for the first time in his five years at Washington State. And he’s smiling ear to ear about it this spring.

Wilson this spring can point to a pair of seniors at each of his inside linebacker spots -- Isaac Dotson and Frankie Luvu (pictured above) at the WILL and Peyton Pelluer and Nate DeRider at MIKE.

“We’re a veteran group finally,” Wilson told Cougfan.com recently, and you could hear the smile in his voice.  “Luckily for me at my position -- for the first time in my five years here -- I’ve got four seniors for two spots (and) going into spring, I’ve got guys who know what the heck they’re doing. So now I can really work with the Jahad Woods’s and the Justus Rogers’s and the Dillon Sherman’s and the young guys in getting them groomed. And they’ve actually got teachers in front of them.”

The WILL spot figures to be a dogfight this spring, said Wilson.

“Isaac Dotson and Frankie Luvu, that’s going to be a battle royale for who is going to earn the starting job because they’ve both played about equal amounts.  And sometimes you’ll have all three playing, one MIKE and two WILLs, when we’re playing bigger teams.  But those two guys have unlimited ability -- they’re both big, fast guys,” said Wilson.

But a youngster is also firmly in the mix at WILL too, in the form of Jahad Woods. Among other things, Wilson loves Woods' explosiveness in going from Point A to Point B.  (Look for a separate article on Woods soon on CF.C).

Also at WILL this spring will be Chima Onyeukwu, though he’s going to shuttle between inside linebacker and RUSH with Roy Manning, Wilson said. (Onyeukwu packed on 15 pounds this winter and now checks in at 6-3, 225).  Justus Rogers, the former Bellevue High quarterback, is moving to MIKE this spring. He checks in at 6-2, 225 pounds on the official WSU spring roster. CF.C asked Wilson to break down his middle ‘backers group:

Peyton Pelluer: “Here’s a guy they said wasn’t big enough, fast enough, strong enough. And then he proved everybody wrong. He’s going to be a four-year starter for us … if I take him out one rep in practice and put someone else in there I’m getting this death stare the whole time … He works incredibly hard, wants to be a coach. He’s going to be such a big asset, and has been, it’s just the way he was groomed and the way he goes about life.

Nate DeRider: “He’s been a program guy, unbelievable on special teams, plays MIKE and WILL but he’s big enough now he’s going to be the backup MIKE coming into spring, and he will compete with Peyton there to start with in spring … he knows this defense and he’s a tough kid … I’m excited to get him more in the defense this year.”

Justus Rogers: “A former quarterback who is a big, athletic guy. He’s going to be battling those guys (at MIKE) just purely on athletic ability … Obviously, he’s gotta learn how to tackle and he’s gotta learn how to get off blocks but that’s secondary to athletic ability and playmaking ability: two things he brings to the table. In bowl practice, we were very excited about what he can do … at that size and speed, we’re very optimistic he can do something in the middle.”

Dillon Sherman : “We brought in a preferred walk on out of Southern California named Dillon Sherman that we think is going to be a really good football player here.  He’s going to be in the mix there this spring.”

Add in another walk on in Erik Glueck and summer arrival Faavae Faavae from the signing class and Wilson said he doesn’t just have seniors, he has depth. 

“You’ve got six MIKE linebackers there -- and a few years ago, I had two,” said Wilson.  “We’ve come a long ways in those five years talent-wise, body-wise and knowledge-wise. I can go in the meeting room and now, I’m just reviewing things with them.”

With the depth and experience at inside linebacker serving as a microcosm for the defense, and team, as a whole, Wilson said “a championship season is now a reachable goal” in 2017 and beyond at Washington State. 

“My No. 1 goal this spring for my group is to get them to play within the defense the way we want them to play: run to the ball, create takeaways – and play harder than anyone we play,” said Wilson.

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Greg Hoyd and Tristan Brock are both listed as linebackers on the official roster but Wilson said both will be the d-line this spring at RUSH and/or DE.
  • Wilson said Dotson can also play MIKE, and that DeRider can also play WILL, allowing for more flexibility in varied situations.

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