Former running back Oertel surprising Cougs at linebacker this spring

In desperate need of linebackers, the Cougars new coaching staff went on the offensive trying to find some.

"The crew that we had, including a guy like Eric Oertel had to come over from offense. We've been using Jared Byers, who's a converted fullback and Corey Laufasa, another converted fullback. Those guys had a big learning curve with a new defense, and a new position, and playing on the other side of the ball. I've been really pleased with the way they have come together," WSU linebackers coach Jeff Choate says.

Oertel, especially, has flourished. Cougars defensive coordinator Mike Breske calls him the biggest surprise on the defense this spring.

"His athleticism and his grasp of our defense, and again, he's good in space, he can run, and he produces," Breske exclaims.

Listed at six foot one, 197 points, Oertel has previous experience at the position. He played linebacker as a freshman, then moved to running back during fall camp his sophomore season. And at first, he wasn't thrilled about being asked to change again.

"I don't want to say upset, but a little frustrated about the fact that you can't get comfortable in one position and things end up being switched again, but I can't lie. I'm the happiest I've been playing football in years right now," Oertel says.

Former running back Oertel surprising Cougs at linebacker this spring

Choate adds, "A guy like Eric is going to understand pass protections because he played tailback and he's going to know what those running backs are going to try to do to him as a blitzer and I think those things can be beneficial."

The offense better watch out. If Oertel and crew continue to impress, the defense might come looking for players... again.