Well aware that their trio of senior linebackers won't be around next year, the Cougars are giving some younger linebackers a chance to mix in with the second team in fall camp.
LEWISTON, Idaho — With three senior linebackers guaranteed to eat up the bulk of Washington State’s available playing time this fall, the Cougars have been trying to get some younger linebackers experience during camp.
Dillon Sherman, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound redshirt freshman, has worked his way into the rotation, splitting time with Jahad Woods as the second team will linebacker behind Isaac Dotson.
“I knew coming into it that if I played to my ability and played fast that I’d have a chance to get some reps and playing time,” Sherman said Tuesday after practice at Sacajawea Junior High School.
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Sherman played his high school ball at El Toro High in Mission Viejo, Calif, and went unrecruited out of high school. So he got his buddy, former Cougar Kaleb Fossum to pass his film along to special teams coach Eric Mele, who liked what he saw and asked Sheman to walk on.
Intrigued by following in the footsteps of prominent WSU football walk ons like Parker Henry, Luke Falk and Fossum, Sherman took the chance and joined the Cougars in camp last fall.
“They got their opportunity and capitalized on it, and I’m looking to do the same,” Sherman said.
Sherman redshirted last season but has progressed quickly in his second year on the team.
“He’s just instinctual, and isn’t afraid to make a play, whether it’s laying out to get a hand on a ball or shooting a gap to get a tackle for loss,” said senior middle linebacker Peyton Pelluer. “He just shows up on film, I feel like once he really gets this defense down and gets a little bigger, he’ll be a stud.”
The Cougars have used former Bellevue quarterback Justus Rogers as Pelluer’s understudy at middle linebacker all through camp. Rogers, Woods and Sherman are seen as the next generation of linebackers who will be called upon to replace Pelluer, Dotson and Nate DeRider in 2018.
“I think they’re going to be really good,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “We have pretty good training sessions with them, but we’ve gotta get to where they’re not slow and thinking about what they’re supposed to do.”
True freshman Fa’avae Fa’avae has also worked his way up from the scout team and into the second team rotation. Fa’avae has strung together some good practices this week as a backup middle linebacker. On Monday, he made a good read on a pass from Falk to Dezmon Patmon and nailed Patmon in the middle of the field almost as soon as the receiver got his hands on the ball. Tuesday’s practice also brought a similar play from Fa’avae, who, at one point in 11-on-11s, quickly filled a gap and pounced on Keith Harrington to hold the running back to a short gain.
“Fa’avae had a good practice,” WSU inside linebackers coach Ken Wilson said Monday in a post-practice interview with WSU’s IMG reporter Matt Chazanow. “He’s getting a run with our (two-deep) guys now.”