A large portion of Washington State's success on the football field in 2015 was due in part to the revamped defensive unit, under first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.
Prior to the start of the season, there were plenty of question marks about how Grinch could necessitate change for the Cougars defensively when other, more attractive defensive coordinators were available to sign.
You know the rest of the story: The Cougars defense got better - not great by a long shot - but a lot better. After just forcing eight takeaways in 2014, the 2015 team came away with 24 which ranked them 34th nationally in that category. Not surprisingly, the improved defense kept the Cougars in more football games and the old saying "bend don't break" seemed to be the motto for the 2015 team.
ESPN's David Lombardi wrote a story on the Pac-12 Blog regarding Grinch and senior hybrid linebacker Parker Henry. From Lombardi's story:
Washington State now enters 2016 as a contender in the Pac-12 North. T-shirts and candy bars are no longer the only motivators in the defensive room: The Cougars feel that they've become a legitimate threat to take the league crown, so Grinch is working to reach a more advanced implementation of what he calls his defense's "hair-on-fire" mentality. That's something he deems a prerequisite for success at Washington State, a program that doesn't typically net as many blue chip defensive players as its Pac-12 counterparts.
With all the improvement the Cougars made defensively in just one season, the sky is the limit as Washington State hopes to challenge for the Pac-12 Championship this season.
Grinch, Henry aim to continue Washington State Cougars' surge - Pac-12 Blog- ESPN
The Washington State Cougars are looking to build on last season's improvement during Year 2 of Alex Grinch's tenure as defensive coordinator.
Mailbag: Unhappiness from the Pac-12's under-hyped - Pac-12 Blog- ESPN
So why is Washington State fourth?