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2011 WSU Football Previews: Defensive Line, Travis Long and Then What?

There was a time, not so long ago, when WSU always seemed to have a great pass rusher. D.D. Acholunu, Isaac Brown, Rien Long, Mkristo Bruce, even Lance Broadus terrorized a quarterback or two.

Those times now seem like ancient history. Over the last three seasons WSU has totaled 14, 13 and 18 sacks. The 2003 Cougars had 50.

Travis Long could be that guy this season, but there are plenty of unanswered questions along the rest of the defensive line.

2010 Depth Chart

DE: Travis Long (SO), Sekope Kaufusi (RsFR)

DT: Brandon Rankin (RsJR), Anthony Laurenzi (RsSO)

DT: Bernard Wolfgramm (RsSR), Justin Clayton (RsFR)

DE: Kevin Kooyman (RsSR), Casey Hamlett (SR)

2011 Depth Chart

DE: Travis Long (JR), Lenard Williams (JR)

DT: Kalafitoni Pole (RsFR), Justin Clayton (RsSO)

DT: Anthony Laurenzi (RsJR), Brandon Rankin (RsSR)

DE: Adam Coerper (RsJR), Skylar Stormo (RsJR)

The 2010 defensive line was a major disappointment. Long was solid, but Rankin and Wolfgramm, both former 4-star junior college recruits failed to live up to the pre-season hype. Laurenzi was a bright spot at defensive tackle and earned considerably more playing time as the season went along. Kaufusi moved to linebacker after proving to be outmatched as a situational pass rushing defensive end.

The 2011 group is full of potential, but is still a below average defensive line in the Pac-12. Long and Laurenzi are solid starters and could prove to be above average. Pole has received a lot of praise in fall camp and might have played a big role last season if not for a calf injury. Still, he is a redshirt freshman and will be relied on to play a major role right away. Rankin is eligible, which is good and he and Clayton should help to provide some decent depth at defensive tackle.

The defensive end spot opposite Long is still a major weak spot. Coerper was the 2008 scout team defensive player of the year, but he's been buried on the depth chart since. He rose us the ranks this fall camp, and would make for a feel good story, but like Pole he is inexperienced and being relied on to make a major contribution. The depth at DE isn't much better. Stormo moved to DE from TE during fall camp spring ball and Lenard Williams is a JC transfer. So out of the four defensive ends on the depth chart, only Long has game experience.

If Pole is as good as advertised and Laurenzi and Long continue to improve, this could be the best WSU defensive line since 2005. The flip-side of that, Pole shows flashes but goes through some growing pains while Laurenzi and Long receive constant double teams that limit their effectiveness.