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On Day 5 of spring practice, WSU's edges and linebackers stand out

Apr. 4—PULLMAN — When Syrus Webster landed at Washington State, transferring from FCS Utah Tech, the Cougars knew they had secured an athletic edge rusher, a guy who fit the bill in several ways.

Webster, 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, looks the part. He has the size and the tools to play a level up.

In Thursday's practice, WSU's fifth of the spring, he showed as much, sliding past offensive linemen and powering past others.

What has separated him in a bigger way, at least to his coaches, is something else.

"His maturity has really blown me away," WSU defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding said after Thursday's practice. "We thought that when we recruited him, but I think if you asked anybody on our defense or our team, he's one of the more mature players. He's got leadership qualities, and I think the best is yet to come. I think he's still got some things to work on, like anybody, but the best is definitely yet to come for him."

Many of his teammates in the backfield mirrored Webster's sterling practice. Edge Andrew Edson and other defensive linemen wreaked havoc in the pocket, prompting quarterbacks John Mateer and Zevi Eckhaus to scramble and flush into open space.

Through five spring practices, it added up to one of the most promising outings for the Cougars' defensive line, which is looking to replace Ron Stone Jr. and Brennan Jackson, both of whom played their final years of eligibility last fall. Interior lineman Naim Rodman did the same, opening up another spot on the line.

"I think they've taken strides every single day," Schmedding said. "I mean obviously, that's the highlight of that position. We always talk (about), you gotta stop the run to earn the right to rush the passer. And you when those guys got going, they cut it loose today, and that's what we wanted. Really, this is a build up into our Friday and into our Saturday, but they're consistently on the right trend."

Elsewhere on the WSU defense, linebacker Buddah Al-Uqdah is building on an encouraging redshirt freshman season. A year ago, he was fighting to earn playing time. Now he's in line for a lot more.

Except he's also now one of the leaders in that position group. The elder statesman of the corps, senior Kyle Thornton, is the most tenured, but Al-Uqdah delivered the most promising season of all. Washington State likes that on its own merits, but particularly now because of the new linebackers in the room.

Those include Keith Brown, who started his career with two seasons at Oregon before playing last season at Louisville, and Parker McKenna, who played the first three seasons of his career at FCS Portland State.

"Parker's always asking questions. That's one thing he's gonna do," Al-Uqdah said. "That's kind of how I was last year, always asking questions. Just really trying to learn everything.

"Any time I come off the field, I'm asking questions. Parker's that way. Him and Keith are some really smart guys."