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APPLE CUP: Most Important Players - C.J. Mizell

Linebacker C.J. Mizell has brought a physical presence to the WSU defense that was lacking early in the year. He'll be key to trying to slow down Washington's rushing attack.
Linebacker C.J. Mizell has brought a physical presence to the WSU defense that was lacking early in the year. He'll be key to trying to slow down Washington's rushing attack.

This is the second in a series of posts of the players we think are most important to WSU's chances to beat UW in the game on Saturday.

C.J. Mizell 5942158_medium

#12 / Linebacker / Washington St. Cougars




Tallahassee, Fla.

Leon H.S.


Sacks Interceptions Tackles
G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total
2010 - C.J. Mizell 10 2 18 1 62 0 39 15 54

Why C.J. Mizell? The Cougars have been vulnerable to the run all season, and Washington has a strong rushing attack, led by bruising running back Chris Polk. As the starting middle linebacker, Mizell figures to have a large impact on whether WSU can contain Polk. 

The Skinny: Mizell is flat-out one of the most talented players on WSU's roster. His physical abilities dwarf most of his teammates. That said, work ethic and attitude issues caused the coaching staff to decide to bring him along slowly until he could prove to them and his teammates that he had earned the right to be on the field. As a result, he played sparingly in the first five games, failing to even record a tackle against UCLA even as the Bruins ran all over the field on the Cougars.

Fed up with poor tackling from the linebacking corps, Paul Wulff and Chris Ball elected to insert Mizell into the starting lineup against then-No. 2 Oregon. Mizell did what most people figured he could if he had his head screwed on straight, racking up 12 tackles -- nine solo -- and generally flying all over the field. He was impressive to say the least.

Mizell had a little hiccup against Arizona, when he was held out for disciplinary reasons, but he has played well in each game since. He had 12 tackles against Cal (including the oddly celebrated WWE "suplex" of Shane Vereen), and although he only had four tackles against Oregon State, that included the late hit on Jacquizz Rodgers which (again, oddly) is credited with setting the tone against the Beavers.

You can see that the numbers across the board are better with Mizell seeing the majority of time at middle linebacker:

Date Opponent Surface Result Att Yards Avg. TD
9/4/2010 @ 16 Oklahoma St. Turf L 17-65 44 291 6.61 5
9/11/2010 Montana St. Turf W 23-22 30 123 4.1 0
9/18/2010 @ Southern Methodist Turf L 21-35 28 140 5 1
9/25/2010 Southern California Turf L 16-50 39 285 7.31 2
10/2/2010 @ UCLA Grass L 28-42 56 437 7.8 5
10/9/2010 1 Oregon Turf L 23-43 40 252 6.3 3
10/16/2010 Arizona Turf L 7-24 47 142 3.02 3
10/23/2010 @ 5 Stanford Grass L 28-38 47 249 5.3 2
10/30/2010 @ Arizona St. Grass L 0-42 34 118 3.47 3
11/6/2010 California Turf L 13-20 42 212 5.05 3
11/13/2010 @ Oregon St. Turf W 31-14 25 97 3.88 0
  Totals     432 2346 5.43 27

Is all of that attributable to Mizell? Of course not. Probably not even most of it. But he's a part of it.

Final Assessment: Polk is good. He's a physical runner between the tackles, and it figures that WSU will see a heavy dose of him. Putting the Huskies into obvious passing situations by limiting first and second down rushing gains will be key. The defensive line will have something to say about Polk's effectiveness, too, but sure tackling from linebackers such as Mizell will be key in preventing Polk's yards after contact -- something at which he excels. Mizell possesses the ability. Can he step up?