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50 days to football: Who is WSU's best player?

WSU has some talent, but who is the best player currently on the roster?

WSU Athletic Communications

There are now 50 days until WSU kicks off its season against Auburn, which means it is time to crank up the 2013 coverage. Some websites have been slowly trickling out coverage throughout the offseason. We at CougCenter think planning and efficiency are for suckers, so instead we are just going to blow out coverage over the next 50 days.

That starts with the first question of the day. Starting today and continuing for the next 49 days, I'll post a random WSU related discussion topic. Some will be short, some will be long, some will be fun, etc. I'm kicking things off with the question of who is the best player on WSU's roster.

Heading into the 2012 season, Marquess Wilson and Travis Long would have dominated the voting. With both gone, the door is wide open for any number of players. Here are my top three as of now.

1. Darryl Monroe

Monroe burst onto the scene last year after missing most of the 2011 season due to an Achilles' injury. He finished the season with 80 tackles, three sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. While statistically he was among the best defenders, Monroe also stood out when watching games. He's physical and consistently made plays behind the line of scrimmage. On running plays, if you saw a fullback or other blocker get blown up at the line of scrimmage, there was a very good chance it was Monroe doing the damage.

But Monroe doesn't top my list because of what he did last season. I think that was only the tip of the iceberg. Remember he opened the season less than 12 months off a torn Achilles' tendon, an injury some say takes 18 months to two years to fully recover from. Former NFL linebacker Julian Peterson said it took him more than two years to fully regain the explosion he had before his Achilles' injury.

Another year of recovery as well as more time in the weight program and learning the defensive scheme could mean Monroe is considerably better this year, which would be pretty damn good.

2. Deone Bucannon

I suspect Bucannon will be the most-popular selection and for understandable reasons. He's been a tackling machine during his WSU career. And he's not just a guy who comes up late, jumps on the pile and notches a partial tackle. Bucannon has been by far the best tackler in space WSU has had in recent memory. If you think WSU gave up a lot of big plays in recent seasons, that number would be considerably larger without Bucannon making touchdown-saving tackles.

Bucannon may not be as strong in coverage as he is in run support, but he's not a liability either. For me, Bucannon and Monroe are the clear top two, with a gap behind them.

3. Ioane Gauta, et all

You could probably make a case for a dozen or more players to be in this spot. I could see cases being made for Gabe Marks, Connor Halliday, Dominique Williams, Cyrus Coen, Xavier Cooper and others. Gauta got the nod for me just because of how much worse WSU's defense was when he was off the field. He was very stout in run support and the Cougars' defense was by far at its best when Gauta, Toni Pole and Cooper were on the defensive line at the same time.

Those would be my picks heading into fall camp, but there is certainly room for debate. Who do you think is WSU's best player?

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