WSU FOOTBALL PREVIEWS: Deone Bucannon And The Defensive Backs

I thought last year would belong to the secondary. With the youth and talent at cornerback and safety, I was convinced the Washington State defensive backs would shine. It seemed like a no-brainer heading into the season.

Of course, as we soon found out, it wasn't the secondary's year and WSU struggled in pass defense. But I'm not giving up hope. If there's a unit that shines on the defensive side of the ball this year, it has to be the secondary. It's too talented not to stand out.

Before we go any further, a quick refresher. My name is Brian and I'm a Bucan-aholic. You know how fans latch on to certain players and consider them their own personal rooting interest? Bucannon is mine. Search the comments here for his name, and you'll soon find out about half belong to me. This fancy ride, which was created by Mark, also belongs to me.

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2010 Depth Chart
CB: Nolan Washington, Aire Justin/Chima Nwachukwu/etc
SS: Deone Bucannon, Anthony Carpenter
FS: Tyree Toomer, Casey Locker
CB Daniel Simmons OR Damante Horton

2011 Depth Chart
CB: Nolan Washington, Brandon Golden
SS: Deone Bucannon, Anthony Carpenter
FS: Tyree Toomer, Casey Locker
CB: Damante Horton, Daniel Simmons

You may notice a few similarities between the two depth charts. By a few I mean the two-deeps are essentially the same, and the Cougs return each of their four starters. This is a group that has plenty of youth, plenty of talent and, by the time this is all said and done, will have plenty of time working together on the field. If there's a unit that will eventually operate as if it were a high-caliber rowing team, working in unison with a rapport developed over time, the secondary is it.

But the secondary can't do it on its own. No matter how solid the four individual players are, they can't sit in pass protection forever. Even the best cover corners can't keep a man locked-down for a six-count.

As we found out last year, the secondary is reliant on the front seven, and with a poor pass rush, the defensive backs are sitting ducks. The Washington State corners and safeties have potential, and are continuing to grow, but were thrown into the fire in 2010, playing behind units that simply weren't up to par.

Will the front seven be able to generate a pass rush this year, taking some of the pressure off the defensive backs? This is the million dollar question. The defensive line, and in some ways the linebackers, will be the hinge of the defense, setting the tone for the entire year. If the defensive line can be somewhat stout against the run and can generate pressure against the pass, the defense as a whole should take a significant leap forward.

And with all the young talent in the defensive backfield, the back-end of the Cougs' defense is setup for success. Whether it can live up to the expectations remains to be seen.

Finally, your poll. Last year, the secondary had six interceptions on its own -- the team finished with 11, including one lineman pick. The unit gave up 2,943 passing yards, including 25 touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks completed 66.2 percent of their passes. So we ask: Will the 2011 version be better than the 2010 version of the WSU secondary?

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