The Washington State Cougars are looking to improve on a mostly disappointing 2012 season, and they are starting with their defense. WSU struggled to get stops last year and they are trying to improve in Mike Leach‘s second season without their best defensive player over the last four years in Travis Long. For the Cougs to turn things around on defense, Chester Su’a must return healthy and ready to contribute next fall.
Su’a made quite an impact at linebacker during his sophomore season, recording 35 tackles, including four tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. The coaching staff was counting on him to step up into a larger role on the defense for his junior season, but he has yet to participate in drills this spring as he is held out with an injury. Coaches are confident that Su’a will be able to fully participate in fall camp in August, but for now he must stand on the sidelines and watch.
In his absence, Washington State has gotten some excellent play from Tana Pritchard and Justin Sagote this spring with both battling it out to find a place in the defensive rotation. Pritchard saw limited time during his freshman season, recording eight tackles over eight games, but has some bulking up to do this summer before he can handle the rigors of full-time duty. Sagote returns for his senior season after finishing fourth on the team in 2012 when he recorded 61 tackles.
New linebackers coach Ken Wilson has liked what he’s seen so far this spring, but is anxious for Su’a to get back on the field healthy to give the Cougars a “swing guy” and some much-needed depth in Washington State’s 3-4 defense. If Su’a can’t come back next fall at 100 percent, it will be a blow to the linebacker corps, which is trying to establish an identity for themselves.
The Cougars defense is still in short supply of able-bodied players, so the health of Su’a takes on even greater importance. Look for the junior to be held out the rest of spring so that he can come back strong when fall camp opens in August and compete for his spot in the defensive rotation next season.