Arrow-right Camera

WSU linebackers have everything but experience

Mike Ledgerwood, center, is a rare senior among Washington State linebackers. (Associated Press)
Mike Ledgerwood, center, is a rare senior among Washington State linebackers. (Associated Press)

This is the sixth of eight position previews of Washington State University’s 2011 football team. Today: Linebackers. Friday: Defensive backs.

PULLMAN – One thing can be said about Washington State’s linebacker corps this season: They all look the part.

Wait, there’s one more thing: They’re young.

“We have some guys who have the specs you’re looking for to play at this level,” WSU linebackers coach Chris Tormey said on Wednesday. “They’re an eager group, they want to learn, they want to be good.”

Looking at the Cougars’ two-deep, every one of the linebackers listed is at least 6-foot-1 and all weigh more than 213 pounds.

And there is more than just the statistics.

“Their athleticism is above average,” said Tormey, the Spokane native who has been coaching college football for more than 30 years. “They all have the numbers you’re looking for, highway-speed-wise.”

So you can put a checkmark next to size, speed and athleticism. But the box next to experience may have to be blank for a while.

Of the nine players who were on the field in Wednesday’s scrimmage, there were two seniors, starting weakside linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis and reserve Mike Ledgerwood, no juniors and seven underclassmen.

There is, Tormey admits, a lot to learn.

“Every day for them is a big surprise,” Tormey said. “Any time they see something new they haven’t practiced against, we have to coach it off the tape and get it right the next day.”

Two freshmen, Chester Su’a and Darryl Monroe, are expected to fill backup roles this season on the outside, with last year’s freshmen phenoms, Sekope Kaufusi and C.J. Mizell, starting at the strongside, and middle spots, respectively.

The freshman class includes Tana Pritchard and Logan Mayes, both heralded recruits who may redshirt, and Cyrus Coen, an under-the-radar recruit who should contribute on special teams at the least.

“Those guys, they’re coming in quick, they’re learning fast,” said Ledgerwood of the freshmen. “We don’t have as much responsibility to teach them, because they’re coming on so quick. There are so many good things I could say about the freshmen.”

There is also a lot that can be said about Ledgerwood. The senior, coming off a junior year he termed “horrible” because of a series of debilitating injuries, came into camp as the starter. But Mizell, having an exceptional camp, earned the starting spot this week.

“He’s a great player,” Ledgerwood said of Mizell. “All I can do is go as hard as I can and be there for the team. Whatever happens, happens. It’s all for the team.”

Ledgerwood has one advantage. There’s little he hasn’t seen before.

“The more repetition you have, you more you start to see the whole picture,” he said. “You see the scheme of things and how it fits together, where people go, people’s responsibility, your responsibility.

“Then it comes together so you can play fast, play strong.”

And that, in short, is what Tormey wants the whole group to achieve.

“We’ve made some strides from spring football to August, but we have a lot of room for improvement at every position,” he said.