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Cougar “Defensive Triplets” rank near top of Pac-12

NCAA Football: California at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

If you need any more evidence that WSU’s defense has come a long way since Alex Grinch came aboard, ESPN’s Pac-12 Blog is here to provide it. As part of their annual “it’s April and we have to figure out something to publish” series, they are ranking the Pac-12’s best triplets, both on offense and defense.

The rankings are given in reverse order, from Number 12 to Number One. While we would probably expect not to see the offense until later in the rankings, it took a while to get to the Cougar defensive triplets as well. Starting at Number 12, the rankings went like this: Arizona, Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon, Cal, Utah and Colorado.

Then, at Number Four, we have your Washington State Cougars. I’ll be honest, I don’t know if the Cougs rank that high because they really are that good or if the other schools such as UCLA (seriously, UCLA way down at 10?) lost a significant amount of talent. Either way, it’s a pretty good sign of respect that WSU ranked that high.

It’s no mystery which defensive lineman would be part of this unit, as Hercules Mata’afa is one of the best in the Pac-12. As the article says, he’s the top returning conference player in tackles-for-loss with 13.5. The hope here is that the razor-thin depth on the defensive line doesn’t result in Hercules getting worn down.

Peyton Pelluer at linebacker wasn’t a big surprise either. However, if both players were to stay healthy all season, I’d probably give the nod to Isaac Dotson. Pelluer is a good player, but it seems like he’s reached his ceiling. If Dotson doesn’t get hurt, I think he could be a star.

Defensive back was equal parts surprising and unsurprising. Yes, I realize that makes no sense. It’s surprising because while Marcellus Pippins has been a mainstay in the DB rotation, he hasn’t exactly stood out, dancing aside. Additionally, the Seattle Times reported a couple days ago that Marcus Strong is pushing Pippins for the starting job.

It isn’t surprising because Pippins is the most experienced defensive back on the roster. If I were a betting man, and I am, I would say that either Darrien Molton (please please please) or Robert Taylor will emerge as the best defensive back on the team in 2017.

So if I had to select this triad, I’d go with Mata’afa, Dotson and Robert Taylor. How about you?