Despite Mike Leach's refusal to confirm Peyton Pelluer's season-ending injury, we can assume that the star linebacker is going to be out quite some time--and that's on the most optimistic of scales.
So, the big question is, who replaces him?
This is a tough task because it's really hard to forget about a guy who has started 34 straight games and is the quarterback of your defense, but there are no excuses in Pullman and the first guy who might see an uptick in playing time is senior Nate DeRider. The former walk-on was just put on scholarship during fall camp and has never started a game, but he has shown flashes of contributions here and there, most notably on special teams and in the Cal game last year when he recorded his first sack and interception.
DeRider logged five tackles with one for a loss in Saturday's win and fellow linebacker Issac Dotson isn't worried about him coming into a bigger role.
"Absolutely comfortable with him," Dotson said. "Totally trust him next to me, any of our guys really. I thought he played great. I thought he stepped up when he needed to and did his job."
Now, speaking of Dotson, he's typically played next to Pelluer as a weakside linebacker, but he might play up the middle while DeRider moves next to him. Another option is Dotson replaces Pelluer and redshirt freshman Jahad Woods replaces Dotson in the weakside linebacker role. Woods has seen time in all three games logging eight tackles with a half sack.
Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch preaches versatility from his guys and it's very possible some other dudes step up or different players take on different roles--Grinch can get fairly creative.
We'll have to see how it all unfolds as we'll have a clearer picture come Saturday's matchup against Nevada.
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