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Could WSU's pass rush be legitimately improved in 2015?

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Let's go ahead and try and read a bunch into fall practices, because that always works out well!

Ivan McLennan has one more year to deliver on his tantalizing athleticism.
Ivan McLennan has one more year to deliver on his tantalizing athleticism.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It's always dangerous to try and read too much into practice performances when it comes to predicting future success. Is defensive success good because the defense is actually good, or is it bad because the offense is actually bad? You obviously can drive yourself nuts.

That said ... I'm going to jump on the Gravitron and do it anyway!

One consistent theme throughout practice reports has been the ability of the defense to generate pressure on the quarterback. Sometimes, this is a function of a second-unit offensive line struggling, but it's often been the first team that has had a tough time containing WSU's defensive line.

For example, this is from Jacob Thorpe's practice report yesterday:

Falk had some trouble with (stop me if you've heard this before) the pass rush during his team period, getting sacked early by Hercules Mata'afa and Jeremiah Mitchell. Leach, tired of watching his quarterback practice skills such as racing out of the pocket and throwing the ball away, stopped the session to make the offensive line do up-downs. The extra conditioning must have resonated, or at least not tired the players out too much, because the defense went sackless the rest of the practice.

This actually gives me a lot of hope that the Cougars might have a legitimately improved pass rush this season, rather than simply being a function of the vagaries of practice reports.

One thing we think we know is that WSU's offensive line is actually pretty decent, especially when it comes to pass protection -- we've already seen these same five guys perform at a level ranging from solid to very good in actual games, and it seems pretty implausible they've gotten worse. Left tackle Joe Dahl and left guard Gunnar Eklund are going to get looks from the NFL after the season, redshirt sophomore right tackle Cole Madison is believed to have that kind of a future, and center Riley Sorenson and right guard Eduardo Middleton -- both juniors -- are on the rise. And while the passing game can sometimes fall victim to timing issues or whatever during early practices, I don't think timing or rust is much of a factor when it comes to blocking.

Perhaps it's just a matter of focus, as it might appear from Thorpe's final sentence. Maybe rust really is a factor. But with seniors Kache Palacio and Ivan McLennan at Rush End, and the infusion of talent from Mitchell (juco transfer), Mata'afa (coming off a redshirt) and Reggie Coates (Nevada transfer), perhaps WSU really does finally have a talented stable of pass rushers for the first time in a decade.

If so, that would be an enormous development for helping out a secondary that appears to also have better talent, but is still largely unproven.

Or maybe, we can talk ourselves into just about anything in August.

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