Aug. 3, 1999
PULLMAN, Wash. - Is Washington State University on the verge of becoming the next Linebacker U? If the history of the 1990's continues as expected, Quarterback U may also be Linebacker U.
Consider: In the decade of the 1990's the Cougars have had 12 linebackers sign professional football contracts. Six are currently on active NFL and CFL rosters.
Now waiting for their shot at the professional ranks are at least nine linebackers, including all three starters from last year. Heading the list is Cougar senior co-captain Steve Gleason, a three-year starter out of Spokane. Joining him in the lineup last year were juniors James Price and Brad Philley.
Yet so deep is WSU this year that newcomer Curtis Holden, a transfer from San Francisco CC, came out of spring drills with a starting spot. Also ticketed for starting duty will be Price or sophomore Raonall Smith, who missed significant playing time last year with an injured shoulder after starting the first two games.
All three backups from a year ago return, senior Grady Emmerson and sophomores Serign Marong and Smith. In addition to Holden, redshirt freshmen Fred Shavies also joins the ranks of the seven returning vets.
WSU coaches consider the linebacking corps so deep and talented they are even contemplating a position move for Philley, who will get a crack at running back when fall camp opens. The last time Philley saw running back duty was in high school, when he gained over 900 yards for Rogers High as a junior. He led all running backs in the state with 693 yards as a senior before being sidelined with an injury.
"I suggested to the coaches I might be more valuable as a running back this year," Philley says.
Even if the junior-to-be does move to the offense, the battle to take his spot will be fierce. "We certainly have enough linebackers," offers head coach Mike Price.
NOTE: WSU's current list of pros includes Lewis Bush (San Diego), James Darling (Philadelphia), Mark Fields (New Orleans), Chris Hayes (NY Jets), Ron Childs (Saskatchewan) and DeWayne Patterson (Saskatchewan).
PRICE ON LINEBACKERS: "We certainly have enough linebackers. We are linebacker heavy. I think we are d-line and linebacker heavy like we have never been before. Obviously Steve Gleason (senior) is the guy, but James Price, Grady Emmerson, Raonall Smith, Brad Philley, Serign Marong and Tupo Tuupo give us all kinds of depth. Now add Curtis Holden, who came in the spring and was wonderful. Even though we have all those good players coming back, Holden has a chance to start. He is very instinctive and has good technique. Our linebackers, because we have so many of them, will also play on special teams, so that is an area that should improve."
THE FACTS - LINEBACKERS
LETTERWINNERS RETURNING (7): Grady Emmerson, 3V, RS-Sr., Co-Capt. Steve Gleason, 3V, RS-Sr., Serign Marong, 1V, RS-So., Brad Philley, 2V, RS-Jr., James Price, 2V, Jr., Raonall Smith, 1V, RS-So., Tupo Tuupo, 1V, RS-So.
NON-LETTERWINNERS RETURNING (1): Fred Shavies, RS-Fr.
TRANSFERS (1): Curtis Holden, TR-Jr.
IMPACT NEWCOMERS (2): MLB Curtis Holden, TR-Jr., MLB Fred Shavies, RS-Fr.
STARTERS RETURNING (3): Steve Gleason, Sr., James Price, Jr., Brad Philley, Jr.
BACKUPS RETURNING (3): LB Grady Emmerson, Sr., LB Raonall Smith, So., LB Serign Marong, So.
STARTERS LOST (0): None
EXPECTED STARTERS: WLB Steve Gleason, Sr., MLB Curtis Holden, TR-Jr., or James Price, Jr., SLB Raonall Smith, So., or Grady Emmerson, Sr.