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

It's baaaaaack. We're beginning another countdown to another football season with another 50-day question series where I ask random questions about WSU football.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Football season isn't quite around the corner, but as of today, there are now 50 days until WSU kicks off against Rutgers. With that, it's time to start our season countdown again. If you weren't around last summer, I spent the 50 days leading up to the Auburn game asking the CougCenter community 50 questions about WSU, college football and a few other topics.

A year later, the countdown to Cougar football is back and we're going to begin the 2014 countdown exactly where we began the 2013 countdown; talking about WSU's best.

There was a time in the not so distant past where picking out WSU's best player was a very easy process. There wasn't enough talent on the roster so the top players stood head and shoulders above the rest. The Cougars aren't stockpiled with dozens of NFL prospects, but the talent level has increased significantly. The cream of the roster now includes more than just one or two players.

So who is WSU's best player in 2014?

With Deone Bucannon off to the NFL, I think you could make a very strong argument for a half-dozen or more players being the Cougars' best. Connor Halliday, Gabe Marks, Vince Mayle are obvious candidates on offense. Darryl Monroe, Xavier Cooper and Toni Pole figure to be WSU's best on the defensive side. Dominique Williams, Marcus, Mason, River Cracraft and a few others could also deserve consideration.

While there are more candidates, this comes down to two players for me; Cooper and Monroe. Both have been key fixtures of the defense the last two seasons and figure to anchor the defensive side of the ball this year. Cooper and Monroe have received some preseason recognition, getting mentioned on a few of the various preseason All-Pac-12 teams. Monroe is a physical beast and the vocal leader of the defense. Cooper is a versatile defensive lineman who can play multiple spots and makes an impact against the run and the pass.

As good as Monroe is and could be, my pick for WSU's best is Cooper. There just aren't many athletes built with Cooper's size and athleticism and he's only gotten better. He improved significantly from his freshman to sophomore season and I think you could make a strong case he was WSU's second-best player by the end of last year. If he takes a similar jump this year as he did last, he could not only be WSU's best, but one of the best in the Pac-12.

Xavier Cooper is my pick for WSU's best player in 2014, who's yours?