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24 days to football: Grade WSU's DL depth

The countdown series moves on with a closer look at the defensive line.

Otto Greule Jr

Yesterday's discussion on the offensive line wasn't exactly a blast in a glass, but today's look at the defensive line should be more fun, promise!

A year ago, WSU's defensive line was in the discussion for the Cougars' biggest weakness. After multiple years of generating very little pressure and being run on at will, the defensive line had a long way to go. Then Ioane Gauta and Xavier Cooper made their debuts and things improved dramatically.

Heading into this year, the D-line is one of the strengths on the roster. Gauta and Cooper are back and Toni Pole is also in the mix. We've seen a shift at the other defensive end spot with Logan Mayes moving to DE and Destiny Vaeao moving to BUCK linebacker.

A starting group of Cooper, Gauta and Pole should be very stout in defending the run. The Cougars are going to rotate pass rushers with Mayes, Matthew Bock, Lyman Faoliu and others likely in the mix. Not to forget about the great Robert Barber, who should see some time this season as well.

The top of the depth chart is very strong and I think there is a good chance Cooper, Gauta and Pole are better this year than they were last. There isn't much proven depth behind them and WSU will need a player like Moritz Christ, Barber, or Darryl Paulo to step into a backup role.

Based on the first team alone, I'd give this group a low A, but when you factor in the backups I think it's a solid B. They should be better than average, but a few notches below elite. Mayes' transition to DE is going to be a major factor because the unit is light on pass rush.

How would you grade WSU's defensive line?

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