Left defensive tackle Xavier Cooper has been battling injuries during fall camp. As of right now, the status of the 6-foot-4-inch, 278-pound redshirt freshman is unsure. If Cooper can't fully go, in his place will be 6-foot-2-inch, 250-pound junior Matthew Bock.
Having started in 12 games last year, Anthony Laurenzi was the Cougars' most experienced defensive lineman and was slated to go at nose guard. However, Luarenzi was dismissed from the team in July, and with freshman Robert Barber suffering a torn ACL, 6-foot-3-inch, 305-pound junior college transfer Ioane Gauta will be forced into early action.
At right defensive tackle will be Toni Pole, who has also been battling injuries all fall camp and is just now coming back. Pole could also double at the nose guard position if needed.
If Pole goes in at nose guard in place of Gauta, 6-foot-4-inch, 275-pound senior Steven Hoffard could come in and play right tackle or left tackle if needed.
Defensive line evaluation
The defensive line is very thin and dinged up heading into the first game of the season. Two of the three potential starters more than likely will not be ready, causing some shuffling. Two players that BYU should count on seeing are Gauta and Pole.
The linebacker corps will be anchored by one of the more talented players on the WSU roster:. 6-foot-4-inch, 256-pound Buck linebacker Travis Long. Long can also be moved to a defensive end position if WSU decides to switch to a 4-3, which could happen in the season opener. Long is a playmaker, so putting him in a position to make plays will be what Coach Breske wants to do, whether at the Buck linebacker position or on the defensive line.
At the Mike linebacker position will be 6-foot-1-inch, 213-pound redshirt freshman Darryl Monroe. Coach Breske will put a lot of trust on the shoulders of Monroe. Although young, Monroe has a lot of talent and will be a key player in the WSU defense in a few years.
At the Will linebacker position will be 6-foot-1-inch, 226-pound sophomore Chester Sua, who will be going up against BYU freshman tackle Ryker Mathews.
There have been some question marks at the Sam linebacker position. Junior Eric Oertel (6 feet 1 inch, 210 pounds) has been moved from running back to Sam linebacker a few times. Reports out of Washington State are that he is now finding his place at the Sam linebacker position.
The core of the 3-4 defense is the linebacker group, and WSU's has both experience and youth at some key positions. Consistency will be an issue early on, and the defense can expect to take some lumps early on in the 2012 season. But, WSU can also expect to be very good in the future with the type of talent in the pipeline. There is a lot of potential with the WSU linebacker group, but there is a lot of youth and inexperience, and BYU fans can expect to see that in the season opener.
The WSU secondary also has a mix of experience and youth. Ross Apo will match up against 5-foot-10-inch, 175-pound junior field corner Damante Horton. Horton earned playing time as a true freshman at WSU, and more than likely has locked down the field side once again.
At the boundary side, there has been a battle between 5-foot-10-inch, 193-pound senior Daniel Simmons and 5-foot-11-inch, 184-pound Nolan Washington. Simmons has been receiving most of the reps during fall camp, with Washington rotating in after coming back from an injury. Both cornerback positions for WSU will be experienced with solid depth.
The free safety position appears to be locked down by 6-foot-1-inch, 190-pound junior Deone Bucannon. He is experienced and started on the WSU defense since his true freshman season.
However, there is a question mark at strong safety. Neither senior Tyree Toomer nor junior Anthony Carpenter have been able to lock down the position with consistent playmaking. Coach Breske has settled with 5-foot-11-inch, 175-pound freshman Taylor Taliulu. Again, Breske will be putting a lot of the defensive calls and responsibilities on the shoulders of a freshman player.
Cougar Sports Radio
To listen to a radio breakdown on Washington State's defense by Talo Steves and Cougar Sports Radio hosts Alema Harrington and Ben Criddle, click the links below.