Previewing the Washington St. Cougars - Part II: Defense and Special Teams

Last year, UCLA rushed for 437 yards against WSU with a gaudy 7.8 ypc.  Jonathon Franklin led the way with 216 yards, Coleman added 185.  In addition to the yards, UCLA scored 5 rushing touchdowns.  Those numbers are eye-popping, but WSU gave up 221.75 ypg on the ground last year after giving up 236.42 in 2009 and 247.62 in 2008.

This year, WSU is only giving 127.25 ypg on the ground.  At this point, it is unclear if those numbers indicate an improvement or a mirage, as WSU held Idaho St. to 23 yards and UNLV to 98 yards but gave up 227 to San Diego St. and 161 to Colorado.

Defensive Line

Defensive line coach Todd Howard has employed the use of an eight man defensive line rotation in an attempt to keep the big uglies as fresh as possible.  WSU starts juniors Travis Long (6'4 256 lbs.) and Lenard Williams (6'2 250 lbs.) at end, but will rotate So. Jordan Pu'u Robinson (6-4 260 lbs.) and Jr. Skylar Stormo (6-5 260 lbs.) frequently.  Long is the star of the defense and has been the most disruptive of the group with 5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks this season, and is well on his way in topping last season's totals of 4 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.

At tackle, Fr. Kalai toni Pole (6-1 292 lbs.) and Jr. Anthony Laurenzi (6-3 287 lbs.) will start and will be backed up by So. Justin Clayton (6-4 282 lbs.) and Sr. Brandon Rankin (6-5 286 lbs.).

Linebackers

The leader of the linebacking corps is Sr. Alex Hoffman-Ellis (6-1 231 lbs.), who starts at weakside linebacker. Hoffman-Ellis has 2 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, an interception, and 21 tackles this season.  He's backed up by Fr. Chester Su'a (6-2 226 lbs.)

Former end So. Sekope Kaufusi (6-4 236 lbs.) starts at strongside linebacker.  Kaufusi may still be learning the position, but he has apparently been playing the position well this season.  He'll be backed up by Cyrus Coen (6-0 205 lbs.).

The most talented player of the group is MLB So. C.J. Mizell (6-2 227 lbs.).  Mizell is a former Florida St. commit who was declared academically ineligible and ended up at WSU.  He has 23 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 tackles for loss this season.  Sr. Mike Ledgerwood (6-1 232 lbs.) backs him up.

Secondary

Opponents have completed 63% of their pass attempts for 234.5 ypg against an improved Cougar secondary.  The game stats are all over the map, but do show improvement.  In week one Idaho St. threw for 430 yards and completed 70.4% of their pass attempts, but last week Colorado only completed 15 of 24 passes for 175 yards.

Safeties Jr. Tyree Toomer (5'11 199 lbs.) and So. Deone Bucannon (6-1 190 lbs.) lead the secondary.  Bucannon has two interceptions this season, matching last year's total.  Toomer has 13 tackles after totalling 68 last season. They will be backed up by sophomores Casey Locker (5-11 198 lbs.) and  Anthony Carpenter (6-0 191 lbs.).

Cornerbacks So. Nolan Washington (5-11 184 lbs.), Jr. Daniel Simmons (5-10 193 lbs.), and So. Damante Horton (5-10 174 lbs.) form a solid trio of corners for the Cougars.  Washington and Simmons start on the outside, while Horton will spell Simmons as well up as line up at the nickel.  Fr. Tracy Clark (5-11 186 lbs.) may also see time if necessary.

Special Teams

Kicker So. Andrew Furney and punter Sr. Dan Wagner return.  Furney is 5/5 on field goals and 20/21 on XP's this season.  Wagner is averaging 40.5 yards per punt.

Isiah Barton and Marcus Mason handle the kick return duties.  They are combining to average 24.09 yards per return. The coverage unit is allowing 22.55 yards per return, but they have given up a touchdown.

So. Leon Brooks handles the punt return duties and is only averaging 4.44 yards per return.

That concludes the preview of the Washington St. Cougars.  Fire away with any additional thoughts or comments.
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