While the WSU offense has some questions marks, it has shown consistent improvement throughout the Mike Leach era. However, the defense has been a bit of a roller coaster and is going to be led by a new defensive coordinator, looking to replace 5 starters, and dealing with the recent departure of yet another promising defensive back.
I went through a bit of my own emotional roller coaster when Xavier Cooper declared for the draft, being very happy and excited for the big man from Tacoma, but also terrified as to what his loss could do to the interior of the defensive line. It’s a testament to his excellent athleticism (ranked second among DT’s in the Sparq rating at the NFL combine) that he accounted for 17 percent of WSU’s sacks and 13 percent of our tackles for loss in 2014 from the defensive tackle position.
From his recent comments, it seems that Alex Grinch is wanting to run a high risk, high reward defense modeled after the Philadelphia Eagles, which made me curious to see who the Cougs have returning that could help contribute to that end.
The good news is that while Cooper made many huge contributions to the Cougar defense, there is a lot of production returning in total tackles, tackles for loss, sacks and fumbles forced in 2015 (see "Select Category" filter below). Hopefully we’ll see the likes of Kache Palacio, Jeremiah Allison and Darryl Paulo in the backfield often this spring (but not too often, because oh no, what if that means our offense is terrible!? Such is spring ball).
One of the things that the Philadelphia Eagles did well this last season was batting down opponent passes (7th in the NFL). However, the WSU defense 12th in the Pac-12 in that same category and 12th in yards per attempt. Further complicating things in this area is the departure of Daquawn Brown, who accounted for almost a third of all passes defended in 2014.
There is a lot of youth in the secondary again, but hopefully they will be helped by a good portion of experience returning along the front seven.
Who do you hope to see as the breakout star of Spring practice on the defensive side of the ball? Which players are you most excited to get a look at?
You can again use the "Select Category" to change which stat is showing in the dashboard, hover over a player to see a pop up of their production. Drop any thoughts or insights you uncover in the comments.
Here’s to the defense seeing a bunch of improvement this Spring, but not too much improvement if you know what I mean.