There isn't a kind way to put it; Washington St. is struggling defensively. They give up nearly 32 ppg, which is 93rd in the country, allow 437 ypg, which is also 93rd in the country, allow 172 ypg on the ground, good for 78th in country, and 265 ypg through the air, which is 104th.
Though Mike Leach does not coach the defense, the fact that his team struggles defensively is not very surprising. Leach is known for a gunslinging offense, which often leaves the defense is difficult spots. WSU may never lead the conference in defensive statistics, but they won't need to if Leach's offense becomes as good as anticipated. This year's team has shown that they are capable of good performances, which is promising, but they will continue to struggle until they can have good performances week in and week out.
Washington St. runs a base 3-4 defense, but they will show a lot of 4-3 looks as well, using Travis long (6'4 256 lbs. Sr.) as a hybrid defensive end/linebacker. Long is very versatile, and can also move inside and play middle linebacker on occasion. Long has been very good this season with 6.5 sacks, 49 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, and an interception.
WSU starts Matthew Bock (Jr.) at end, and Steven Hoffart (Sr.) and Ioane Gauta (Jr.) inside. Outside of tackles (Gauta has 22 tackles, Bock has 16, and Hoffart has 14), the unit's statistics are underwhelming. If Long is counted as a linebacker, the defensive line only accounts for 6 sacks this season, and the defense has given up a lot of yardage on the ground. They aren't incapable of stopping the run, as evidenced by their strong showing against Stanford which they held the Cardinal to 120 rushing yards, which makes the defense somewhat maddening.
The line will rotate a lot of bodies, and there are some talented young players on the roster. Kalafitoni Pole (6'1 277 lbs. So.) is an undersized nose tackle that has 4 tackles for loss and a sack this season from a reserve role, and defensive end Xavier Cooper (6'4 298 lbs. Fr.) has 7 tackles for loss and 2 sacks off the bench.
Washington St. is fairly deep at the linebacker spot, but they lack definite playmakers outside of Travis Long. They start Cyrus Coen (6-0 205 lbs. So.) at the strong side, Darryl Monroe (6'1 228 lbs. Fr.) inside, and Chester Su'a (6-2 226 lbs. So.) on the weakside. Of the bunch, Monroe has been the most productive despite being the youngest. He has 60 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks this season. Coen is probably the best in coverage, as he has made 2 interceptions and broken up 4 passes in addition to his 42 tackles this season. Su'a adds 30 tackles and 4 tackles for loss.
Behind the starters, WSU will use Justin Sagote (6'0 220 lbs. Jr.) who has 48 tackles and 1.5 sacks, Jared Byers (6'0 218 lbs. So.) who has 32 tackles, and Eric Oertel (6'1 210 lbs. Jr.) who has 28 tackles. The Cougars also have reason to be excited about two true freshman linebackers in Jeremiah Allison (6'2 210 lbs Fr.), who has played in 8 of the 9 games and has 3 tackles, and Kache Palacio (6'2 212 lbs. Fr.), who has played in all 9 games and has 5 tackles and .5 sacks. They are both very athletic and will add some speed to the defense in the coming years.
Opponents have completed 63% of their pass attempts for 265.6 ypg against the Cougar secondary. The game stats are all over the map, but do show improvement. The secondary has been better lately after giving up over 300 yards passing in each of the first 4 games, including 379 to Eastern Washington and 351 to UNLV, but they allowed Travis Wilson to complete 22/26 passes for 248 yards last week.
The secondary starts a trio of upper classmen and a freshman. Deone Bucannon (6-1 190 lbs Jr.) starts at SS and leads the team with 76 tackles. Bucannon also has 4 interceptions this season and is probably the player to watch in the secondary.
Cornerbacks Nolan Washington (5-11 184 lbs Jr.), Damante Horton (5-10 174 lbs Jr.), and Daniel Simmons (5-10 193 lbs Sr.) form a trio of experienced corners for the Cougars. Washington and Horton start, but Simmons will see plenty of action. All of them played extensively last season.
Taylor Taliulu (5'11 184 lbs Fr.) starts at FS and has 18 tackles this season. Taliulu has played in 7 of the 9 games this season as a true freshman. WSU will also play Anthony Carpenter (6') 190 lbs Jr.) who has 29 tackles and an interception this season.
Kicker Jr. Andrew Furney is 11/15 on field goals and 18/19 on XP's this season. Michael Bowlin handles punting duties and is averaging over 42 yards per kick.
Teondray Caldwell handles the kick return duties, and has been solid averaging over 26 yards per return.
Leon Brooks handles the punt return duties and is averaging over 10 yards per return, but he has only returned 7 kicks.
That concludes the preview of the Washington St. Cougars. Fire away with any additional thoughts or comments.