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2011 WSU DEPTH CHART: Deone Bucannon Leads Young, Exciting Secondary

Nolan Washington has a world of talent, just like the rest of the WSU secondary. Will the back four be able to make good on it and take a huge step forward this year?
Nolan Washington has a world of talent, just like the rest of the WSU secondary. Will the back four be able to make good on it and take a huge step forward this year?

This continues our series of semi-informed WSU football depth chart spculation where we take a stab at what each position on the depth chart will look like when the Cougars kick off against Idaho State on Sept. 3. You'll note, at times, that it will look a little different than the post-spring practice depth chart -- we're going to incorporate incoming freshmen and also try to guess what's going to play out in August during training camp.

The secondary certainly had its fair share of issues last year, especially as injuries plagued the unit throughout the bulk of the season. But it also had some moments that made you think it could be a strength of the team real soon -- especially as the season wore on and the younger guys gained experience.

In fact, I'd argue that despite its youth, the secondary possesses the talent to be the second best unit this fall behind the wide receivers.

Sophomore safety Deone Bucannon leads the way. Despite starting just two thirds of the games, he led the team in tackles -- by a wide margin -- as a true freshman. Obviously, you don't want a safety leading your team in tackles. But after watching Chima Nwachukwu tepidly try to bring down running backs for a month, a guy who was willing to aggressively stick his nose in against bigger runners and lay the wood to some wide receivers was a welcome sight. He had 31 tackles in a two-game span against Arizona and Stanford.

It's no secret that Bucannon is a favorite of ours, and after he capped his campaign with seven tackles and a critical interception at the end of the first half against Washington, we think big things are in store for him.

Who's going to join him? Here's our take on the how the depth chart stands.

Starter Nolan Washington , So.* Deone Bucannon, So. Tyree Toomer, Jr.* Damante Horton, So.
Backup Brandon Golden, Fr.* Anthony Carpenter, So.* Casey Locker, So. * Daniel Simmons, Jr.*
Third Tracy Clark, Fr.* Tyrone Duckett, Fr.* Jay Matthews, Jr.* Spencer Waseem, Fr.

Level of certainty: Medium-high. The top four seem pretty set, although there's a chance that a healthy Simmons overtakes Horton. But Simmons' health is a big question mark, and my money's on Horton to keep the starting spot. Behind those guys, the backups seem pretty solid, too. Clark and Golden could flip-flop, but it's hard to see Duckett or Matthews overtaking Carpenter or Locker. And since Waseem was the only player in the secondary in last year's recruiting class, there won't be any freshmen coming in to bust down the door the way Bucannon did.

Risk of volatility: Medium. It's tough to imagine Bucannon and Toomer losing their spots to anything other than injury, but the same can't be said for Washington and Horton. Although both are talented, both are still inexperienced, and Simmons, Golden and Clark will all get their chances to show what they can do. 

Biggest question: If the defensive line once again fails to generate pressure, will the back four be able to hold their own? The answer last year was a clear no. I don't think anyone has any illusions that this year's ends will remind anyone of Isaac Brown and D.D. Acholonu, so no matter if the front four is improved in its pass rush, there still will be times these four will be responsible for holding down the fort.

They'll need to do so for this defense to take a major leap forward. The talent is there.