PULLMAN — When Sebastian LaRue transferred to Washington State from Texas A&M this year, it was assumed that he would provide stiff competition for the Cougars’ deep receiving corps.
LaRue, who had received scholarship offers from Ohio State, Oklahoma and USC as a receiver recruit coming out of high school, is competing with WSU’s pass-catchers on the field — but he’s now on the other side of the ball.
LaRue is the newest member of WSU’s defensive backfield, making the switch to cornerback Saturday.
“It was something I played in high school,” LaRue said. “I initially wanted to play it coming into college, and it was something I wanted to see if I could be successful at. Not taking anything away from receiver or anything like that — it’s not like I was forcibly moved — I went to (the coaches) and asked them for the opportunity to try it out, and they gave me the opportunity.”
ESPN.com ranked LaRue as the No. 9 receiving prospect in the country coming out of Santa Monica (Calif.) High School. He redshirted his freshman season at Texas A&M before enrolling at WSU this semester.
LaRue is subject to NCAA transfer rules that require him to sit out his first season. However, WSU has filed a hardship appeal asking that he be allowed to play during the 2014 season.
Defensive coordinator Mike Breske said LaRue would remain at cornerback, at least for the Cougars’ final six spring practices. The move also will provide balance to a team that entered spring with 22 wide receivers on the roster compared with eight cornerbacks, five of whom are freshman.
“Obviously he’s got to learn the position now and that type of deal, but he brings a lot to the plate,” Breske said. “And as soon as he develops his defensive mind, I’m excited to see what he can do. We’ve got some time with him to get him going, and spring is really the time to work on that.”
The Cougars are developing a penchant for taking offensive players and using their knowledge of passing patterns and blocking schemes to turn them into shrewd defenders, much like NFL All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks. He began his Stanford career as a receiver.
Last year, former Curtis High School standout Rahmel Dockery left the Cougars after making the switch from receiver to cornerback. Isaac Dotson was recruited to WSU to play quarterback. He likely will be the starting strong safety as a sophomore.
“I’ve had quarterbacks, I’ve had wide receivers, and I’ve had running backs,” Breske said. “If your mindset is right for the dark side, that’s where the best players are. Generally, they’re on offense in high school. And if they want to make that commitment, they’re fine defensive players.”
LaRue’s strengths as a receiver were his quickness and an ability to change directions in a hurry. Those skills appeared to translate defensively.
Breske had LaRue take repetitions in a one-on-one drill between the receivers and defensive backs. The former Aggie appeared to hold his own, smothering receiver Willie Roach (Todd Beamer High School) on one rep and breaking up a pass to Daniel Lilienthal on another.
“It’s definitely been a challenge these first couple days, just switching over to going backwards instead of forwards and things like that,” LaRue said. “But we’re all competing out here and getting each other better.”
SU’A-KALIO PLEADS GUILTY
Defensive lineman Emmitt Su’a-Kalio on Friday pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault in Whitman County Superior Court. The 18-year-old redshirt freshman was arrested in October after he punched a teammate during an altercation, breaking his jaw.
Su’a-Kalio’s sentence includes 240 hours of community service and a $1,450 fine, including $200 to pay for a blender the victim purchased while his jaw was wired shut.