This is the first of eight profiles in the third annual CougCenter Elite Eight series -- in which we break down eight of the most promising incoming freshmen for Washington State football in 2011. You can view the 2010 Elite Eight here and the 2009 list here.
The CougCenter Elite Eight is back. In 2011, however, thanks to a rather brilliant suggestion by our own Jeff Nusser, I'm changing up the format a little bit. Instead of revealing all of our top eight incoming freshmen all at the same time, we're going to expand the fun a little bit by profiling the players one at a time. That's what I'll be doing for the next several weeks, and I can't think of a more electrifying player to start the series out with than linebacker Chester Su'a.
Chester Su'a, LB
6'2", 215 lbs.
Pearl City, HI
Scout: 4 stars (#15 OLB)
ESPN: 2 stars (72 rating; listed as RB)
Rivals: 3 stars (listed as RB)
The highlight video above shows Su'a as a high school junior, and mainly focuses on his exploits running the ball and catching the ball. While I wouldn't put too much stock into a future at wide receiver for Chester, the thing you immediately notice about him is his speed. And boy does he have speed. In a college football landscape where spread offenses are becoming more and more prevalent, it's important to have a linebacker that can bolt to the football. No longer is it just enough to have the size and the strength; it's now just as critical to have a motor behind it. This is why Su'a is so intriguing: he moves exceptionally well vertically and laterally, and in his linebacker highlights he seems to have a real nose for finding the ball carrier and closing quickly.
What don't we know about Su'a? For starters, it's hard from the available videos to get an idea of how he operates as a pass defender, as well as the level of his defensive instincts. Those are two key things for today's college football linebacker. If Su'a learns to read the offense as well as he has the potential to, look out. He'll close on the ball in no time, and be a gigantic lift to our rush defense. In pass defense, the advantage to his speed is that he should be able to act like a hybrid linebacker/defensive back on intermediate passing routes. Sure, he may not run with the fastest of the fast in the Pac-12, but he can definitely snuff out an opposing tight end or most slot receivers. Practice at the NCAA level will be critical for Su'a, and likely determine how soon he plays (and how often). He's also got to hit the weight room - speed doesn't help too much if he doesn't have the strength to bring his man down. But, remember, he's still just going to be a true freshman. There's plenty of room to grow in college, and I wouldn't bet against him. Just don't expect him to step on the field and dominate right off the bat.
Don't go too crazy, but the fact is Su'a is worth a lot of the hype he's accrued so far from the WSU faithful. If nothing else, he's already a legitimate Pac-12 athlete with the potential to become something even greater. A linebacking corps headlined by Su'a and CJ Mizell could grow to be one of the best in the conference someday. Su'a's speed and acceleration will serve him well at the next level. And you know what? Even if it doesn't work out at linebacker, Chester has the athleticism and versatility to at least warrant a look at running back or even as a returner on special teams. One YouTube video even lists him as a running back/safety. Yup, safety.
Still, at the end of the day, outside linebacker seems like a great fit for Su'a. And likewise, Su'a is a great fit for the future of Cougar football.