Part three in an eight-part series previewing the WSU football 2010 offensive and defensive units.
To save ourselves the heartache, let's just throw last year out the window. The Cougs gave up 275 yards per game through the air and 21 touchdowns on the season, forcing 10 interceptions.
This season, the tides should turn and the defense should be improved. The Cougs start the season healthy after a rash of injuries left the defensive backfield depleted for much of last season. LeAndre Daniels and Daniel Simmons both broke their legs early in the season, forcing backups into roles they just weren't ready for.
The secondary is young, talented, and fast this time around. The depth chart is filled with redshirt freshmen and sophomores, with only three upperclassmen on the three deeps. The year many of these young players had to bulk up and mature should pay dividends right off the bat. They should be greatly improved and are a unit we should all be excited to see.
Projected Depth Chart For Sept. 4
# = Has used redshirt. This is our best guess based on the preseason depth chart and published reports.
|1st String||2nd String||3rd String|
|LCB||Daniel Simmons (#So)||Anthony Carpenter (#Fr)||Anthony Martinez (#Jr)|
|RCB||Aire Justin (#Jr)||Nolan Washington (#Fr)||Terrance Hayward (#So)|
|SS||Chima Nwachukwu (Sr)||Tyree Toomer (#So)||Jamal Atofau (#Fr)|
|FS||LeAndre Daniels (#So)||Tyree Toomer (#So)||Casey Locker (#Fr)|
The nickel and dime backs aren't typically listed on the depth chart. Depending on the situation, the Cougs have a variety of options. In coverage situations, Nolan Washington should see playing time with Anthony Carpenter pushing hard for a spot in the rotation.
When the Cougs go with six defensive backs, both Carpenter and Washington could see time on the field simultaneously. Casey Locker and Jamal Atofau should also see time in either the nickel or dime. It sounds like hedging, but any of these four can play the positions and be a strength for the defense. Right now, adding defensive backs to the scheme is a positive for the Cougs and should greatly benefit them in obvious passing situations.
The defense is filled with plenty of talent but most of them are young and inexperienced. The glue that holds it all together may just be Chima Nwachukwu. As the senior and elder statesman of the defense, Nwachukwu has seen it all at his time at WSU.
With the youthful exuberance the defense is exhibiting, they need a leader to point them in the right direction. Although Nwachukwu has been battling for his starting spot, by the time the season comes around the Cougs will need him to step up and lead this young and talented unit.
Biggest Question Mark
Can the talented youth put it together and translate their raw skill into results on the field? Many of the players on the two-deep are young, with little experience in game situations. Chima Nwachukwu and Aire Justin both have experience, but after that it drops off. There's no question that the backs have talent, but until they see the speed of the college game live, we don't know how well they'll do.
As a secondary question, can the players on the two-deep stay healthy? There's enough depth for the unit to absorb hits, but a rash of injuries is the last thing any position needs at WSU. Avoiding freak injuries like the broken legs from last year will go a long way for the secondary.
Best Case Scenario
The starters have improved both physically and in their understanding of the scheme. Chima Nwachukwu provides the senior leadership for the young secondary. The corners are consistent after a year of being out-manned in 2009. A healthy LeAndre Daniels decapitates a Husky receiver over the middle to end an all Pac-10 season.
Worst Case Scenario
Injuries take a toll on the defensive backfield as lightning strikes twice and cripples the secondary. The younger guys aren't as ready to play as we thought and the Cougs get torched through the air on a weekly basis.
The secondary is sevicable and keeps the the defense from getting beat deep. With the added depth, Chris Ball and Jody Sears can move away from basic playcalling and turn the defense loose. They force enough timely turnovers to be respectable and get the defense off the field when needed. They're still a bit smaller in stature than opposing wideouts, but hold their own against the physical Pac-10 wide receivers.