One depth chart surprise already at WSU

TANA PRITCHARD

TANA PRITCHARD'S star this spring appears to be rising as fast as Chester Sua's was dropping last fall. And the result is that Pritchard, not Sua, will enter Washington State's spring practices later this month as the No. 2 weakside linebacker behind starter Justin Sagote.

"Tana came on late last season and has had a great off season," WSU defensive coordinator Mike Breske told Cougfan.com. "The knee (that slowed him last year) is healthy."

When spring ball commences on March 21, the depth chart at the WILL linebacking spot will read Sagote, Pritchard and Sua, in that order, Breske said.

Pritchard saw limited action in 10 games last season, posting eight total tackles, but started to turn heads at mid-season in the Cougars' Thursday night scout team scrimmages. He has continued to shine in off season workouts, Breske said.

Pritchard was recruited to WSU as an "athlete," having starred at quarterback, defensive back and punter in a fabled, multi-sport career at Clover Park High near Tacoma. As a redshirting freshman at WSU he was named Scout team defensive player of the year after being installed as an outside linebacker, seemingly fulfilling the promise of his prep coach at Clover Park who banned him from contact drills his senior year after too many of his teammates were getting hurt.

Sua played in all 12 games for the Cougars as a true freshman in 2011, starting four of them, and entered 2012 with high expectations around him. He started the first two games last season at WILL before Sagote, a JC transfer, claimed the spot and started the final 10.

Sagote appeared to play with unbridled enthusiasm and concluded the year with 61 total tackles, tying him with Travis Long for third-most on the team. Sua continued to see spot duty and was a fixture on special teams, and finished the year with 34 total tackles.

Sua has been slowed this off season with a back issue that is getting better, Breske said. Health aside, the coach added, Sua needs to look within if he is going to fulfill the promise he arrived with at WSU as the No. 15-rated outside linebacker prospect in the nation.

"He has to ask himself how much he wants it," Breske said.

Sagote, meanwhile, is being looked to this season as not just a player, but one of the team's primary leaders. "The leaders on any defense tend to come from the linebacker, because they're literally in the middle of everything," Breske said. "(Darryl) Monroe, (Cyrus) Coen) and Sagote could be those leaders for us this year. We'll see what happens."

Sagote's potential in that regard would seem great. The very same week last season that Mike Leach complained of the "empty corpse quality" of some seniors, he also praised Sagote for leadership.

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