Peyton Pelluer, WSU's middle linebacker, is done for the year after breaking his foot in the Oregon State game
Washington State middle linebacker Peyton Pelluer sustained a season-ending injury in the Cougars’ 52-23 win over Oregon State on Saturday night, and is done for the year, The Seattle Times has confirmed through Pelluer’s family. The Lewiston-Tribune broke the news.
Pelluer, a 6-foot, 225-pound linebacker from Sammamish, left the Oregon State game early in the second quarter and was taken immediately to the locker room.
He never returned. Pelluer broke the navicular bone on his left foot – that’s the bone on the inner side of the foot just above the arch and the injury will require surgery.
“He’s a very, very disappointed young man,” Pelluer’s father, Scott Pelluer, said in a text message.
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Pelluer was coming off a 14-tackle performance against Boise State that earned him Pac-12 defensive player of the week honors.
The senior linebacker is the heart of WSU’s defense, and his injury is a big loss for the Cougars. Pelluer has played in 41 games for WSU and is a four-year, 34-game starter at middle linebacker.
However, WSU football coach Mike Leach would not acknowledge the injury to Pelluer during his Monday news conference.
“We’re 100 percent healthy. Peyton is a fantastic teammate, we’re excited to have him on the team as always, he does a great job,” Leach said. “We haven’t lost anybody.”
Pelluer himself appeared to confirm the news of a season-ending injury Monday afternoon, when he responded to a tweet of good wishes from linebacker Frankie Luvu with a tweet of his own.
“Thank you brother. Blessed to play my last snaps with you,” Pelluer said in the tweet.
When Pelluer left the game on Saturday, senior Nate DeRider stepped into the middle linebacker spot, but in the second half, WSU shifted things around on defense and used Isaac Dotson and Jahad Woods on the inside.
Pelluer had two tackles against the Beavers before he had to leave the game, and he finishes his WSU career with 254 total tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, three fumbles recovered, three fumbles forced and one career pick-six from his score against Boise State.
With Pelluer out, DeRider is likely to be used as the next middle linebacker unless WSU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and linebackers coach Ken Wilson decide to shift bodies around and move Isaac Dotson from will linebacker to the mike spot.
DeRider has played in 28 career games for WSU, and he tallied five tackles including one for loss last weekend against Oregon State. DeRider, a fifth-year senior, came to WSU as a walk-on, and finally earned a scholarship this summer. He’s a career backup who has yet to make his first start.
Dotson, also a fifth-year senior, has started 14 games for WSU, with 10 of those starts coming at will linebacker. Dotson is a versatile athlete who’s played several positions in Grinch’s defense — safety, nickelback and will linebacker. The coaching staff has frequently praised him for his comprehensive understanding of the defense, and it’s possible that Grinch might decide to move him to the middle linebacker spot, which is often looked at as the quarterback of the defense.
Woods, a redshirt freshman, got his first true defensive reps last week after Pelluer went down. He tallied three tackles. Woods has repped mostly at will linebacker this preseason, with redshirt freshman Justus Rogers and true freshman Fa’avae Fa’avae next in line behind Pelluer and DeRider at middle linebacker.
Either way, it will be tough to replace Pelluer and his assertive command of the defense from its very middle. With Pelluer and Dotson anchoring the defense, WSU had one of the most veteran, reliable, inside linebacking tandems in the conference. That kind of experience cannot be duplicated.
After news of Pelluer’s injury broke, there was an outpouring of support for him on Twitter from fans and teammates: