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A position of strength in 2015, WSU's linebackers will be inexperienced in 2016

In part four of an eight-part look at the past, present and future of each of the Cougars' units, we assess the linebackers, who have a lot of snaps up for grabs.

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

With signing day in the rearview mirror and spring football coming up, now's a great time to take stock of each of the eight position groups on WSU's roster. Let's go back over to the defense for a unit that will be replacing two of three starters for the fourth installment of our series: The linebackers.

Looking Back at 2015

End of Season Depth Chart
Will Mike Rush
Starter Jeremiah Allison, Sr Peyton Pelluer, RS-So Ivan McClennan, RS-Sr
Backup Frankie Luvu, So Chandler Leniu, RS-Fr Kache Palacio, Sr
Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Player Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
Peyton Pelluer 57 44 101 11 0 1 0 0 0 2 1 2
Jeremiah Allison 63 34 97 5.5 0.5 1 44 44 0 1
Ivan McLennan 24 14 38 9 6 2
Kache Palacio 26 7 33 11 6 3
Chandler Leniu 8 6 14 1 0
Frankie Luvu 9 4 13 0 0
Dylan Hanser 9 1 10 0 0
Logan Tago 6 4 10 0.5 0 1
Nate DeRider 5 3 8 0 0 2 1
Aaron Porter 2 2 4 0 0

In Brief: At Will and Mike, Peyton Pelluer and Jeremiah Allison did what linebackers generally do -- rack up a lot of tackles -- but 2015 represented a step forward in a key area: Creating havoc.

Havoc is defined as plays that result in a tackle for loss, a pass defensed/intercepted, or a fumble forced, and the Cougars' linebackers ranked 16th nationally in the percentage of those kinds of plays -- they actually were 50 percent better than the national average. Ideally, that's what you want your linebackers to do in a 3-4 defense.

Pelluer delivered on the faith the coaches showed him in 2014 when they elevated him as a redshirt freshman past Darryl Monroe. He was a steady force in the middle while coming up with big plays -- including a forced fumble at Rutgers that was pivotal in that game. And while Allison finished just behind Pelluer in total tackles, he actually led the linebackers in solo tackles. Both were tremendously productive -- and consistent.

At Rush LB, Kache Palacio and Ivan McClennan formed a formidable duo, combining for 12 sacks. While they technically played the same position, they were often on the field together in passing situations, putting pressure on the quarterback. Neither was dominant, but both were important cogs in the Cougs' multifaceted pass rush.

Looking Ahead to 2016

Who Departs: Jeremiah Allison (6-2/228), Kache Palacio (6-2/231), Ivan McClennan (6-4/233)

Projected Depth Chart
Will Mike Rush
Starter Frankie Luvu, Jr Peyton Pelluer, RS-Jr Dylan Hanser, Jr
Backup Suliasi Tamaivena, Jr Aaron Porter, Sr Logan Tago, So
3rd, etc Paris Taylor, Sr Greg Hoyd III, RS-So Chima Onyeukwu, Jr
Nnamdi Oguayo, So.

In Brief: With half the two deep graduating, another backup thought to be changing positions (Chandler Leniu to defensive line), and the coaches' demonstrated willingness to mix and match pieces with relative impunity, the above depth chart is really just a whole lot of guessing.

Having Pelluer back is great, but there obviously are a pair of big question marks in terms of who fills the Will and Rush vacancies. On the one hand, there appear to be a lot of young, talented options. On the other hand, it's basically just a lot of unproven potential, after Allison, Palacio and McClennan dominated the snaps at their respecitve positions.

Want to know how hard this is to figure out? If we assume Pelluer keeps his job and Luvu moves into Allison's spot (no guarantee), there are 17 other linebackers on the roster to fill out the rest of the depth chart. Of course, two of them are Parker Henry and Logan Tago, both of whom were playing nickel back by the end of last season ... so yeah, best of luck!

We think the coaching staff is high on Dylan Hanser at Rush. Junior college transfer Suliasi Tamaivena looks like an impact player who could make a push to leap over Luvu. Aaron Porter is a one-time four-star recruit who didn't have the impact last season that many hoped for, but perhaps his senior year is where he can do some damage. Tago could very easily move back to linebacker. Heck, Lyric Bartley and Danny Bender are listed as defensive ends as incoming freshmen, but both appear to have the kind of athleticism that could land them at Rush.

All that to say: Don't be surprised if you hear of a lot of different guys trying out a lot of different roles this spring, with things looking completely different in the fall.

2017 Recruiting Outlook

We mentioned the sheer number of linebackers on the roster, which was thanks in part to taking five linebackers in this cycle (not counting Bartley and Bender). Only a pair of projected backups -- Porter and Taylor -- are graduating, meaning this won't be a huge position of need in this recruiting cycle.

Of course the Cougs will be on the lookout for pass rushers, as every school is, but it this isn't a position of pressing need in 2017. However, because WSU likes to recruit athletes then figure out where they fit later, you could see guys recruited as athletes/safeties/defensive ends who eventually end up here.

A quick snapshot of the offers that are out, via Britton Ransford's report in February:

La Mirada, Calif., linebacker Chase Newman joined Hicks in adding an offer from Washington State this week. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound outside linebacker is rated three-stars by and also holds offers from Colorado and Colorado State. ...

After not signing a quarterback in the 2016 recruiting class, Washington State will be going after one hard in the current cycle. Could Layton, Utah dual-threat quarterback Tayler Katoa be the next man up for Leach under center? Well, maybe. The 6-foot-1, 204-pound quarterback was offered by Washington State today, which adds to a current offer sheet including BYU, Oregon State and Utah.

Update: After watching film, this is likely an "athlete" offer for Katoa, who would excel as a linebacker. rates Latoa a four-star athlete, though BYU and others are still recruiting him as a quarterback. ...

Hayward, Calif., linebacker Addison Gumbs also picked up an offer from Washington State today. The 6-foot-3, 211-pound outside linebacker is rated three-stars by and also holds offers from Cal, Hawaii, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Oregon State, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Utah State and several others.