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The incredible disappearing defensive backfield

Another day, and sadly, another piece of bad news regarding player conduct (by the way, screw you Seattle Times, for putting the Cougs under the "More" tab on the sports page while the Huskies are featured prominently in the banner):

When Washington State released its 2009 football roster Saturday, some familiar names were missing, including defensive back Devin Giles and wide receiver Michael Willis.

"They were dismissed for a violation of team rules," coach Paul Wulff said.

The seniors join defensive back Romeo Pellum, who was dismissed last spring, as expected contributors who won't be back.

It's been a strange summer for Cougar sports. Like Ken Bone has been attracting recruits, the WSU defensive backfield has been attracting bad behavior. And dismissals.

Let's bypass discussing Michael Willis in detail. While sad, Willis was a senior who might have been a contributor only because the wide receiver position is the thinnest its been in years. However, if you had forgotten, it shouldn't come as a shock to you that Willis originally came to WSU as a promising defensive back.

Giles' loss is a bigger hit to the team. He joins Romeo Pellum in the former Cougar corner category, and the position is already dangerously thin. GIles had appeared to put the academic issues from '08 behind him and was looking at a promising Senior campaign. Fortunately for both Willis and GIles' future, they appear to be on track to graduate.

Of course, this is just another disciplinary hit to the backfield. Pellum and Aire (Tyrone) Justin are facing felony burglary charges. Lesser-known backs Tyree Toomer and LeAndre Daniels are facing discipline over an alleged bike theft (seriously, a bike?) this spring, but are still with the team.

Sean over at WSU Football blog pegs Cal transfer Brandon Jones as the likely replacement for Giles, and that seems like a good fit. But the WSU defense, at least the pass-defense portion of it, is becoming a patchwork.

And let's not forget it wasn't even very good to begin with. If you look at yards per game, the pass defense was a relative strength for the Cougars, ranking 44th nationally with 195.8 yards surrendered. That's not bad when you consider how lopsided many of the games were last season.

But that's not the whole story. WSU's rush defense was so horrific last year (5.78 yards allowed per attempt - worst in the nation), that teams simply didn't even have to put the ball in the air to pick us apart. When they did, they had success: WSU allowed 7.8 yards per pass attempt, making it a sobering 101st in the nation (still better than the Huskies, who were 111th - hey, maybe that's why we beat 'em).

While it's mostly doom and gloom, the reason for hope is the same as it has always been since Wulff arrived. Essentially, the majority of problems are involoving players that were recruited under Bill Doba's regime, and those players are being dealt with. Consequences are being handed down, players are dealing with discipline on an internal basis, and the new players coming in should be working at a higher level of discipline. Although that's no guarantee they will be.

For now, WSU has to remain firm with its disciplinary process. Even if it means having to cringe every time the opposition puts the ball up in the air.