'09 Previews: WSU Defense

WSU's defensive line last year was the single worst unit I've seen in however many years of watching and covering this sport, the linebackers are the strength of the D and the secondary will be better -- though the numbers should get worse. Read on for more on the first defense your 2009 Cardinal will face.

First Down: The Basics
Stanford @ Washington State – September 5

Last Year: @ Stanford 58, Washington State 0

Stat Battle: Washington State D vs. Stanford O
Stats listed opponent offense (Pac-10 Rank), Stanford defense (Pac-10 Rank). All stats Pac-10 only. The first six 2008 stats are good and last three stats bad for an offense, so the larger the first six stats are, the better the offensive rank and the worse the defense rank, and vice versa for the final three stats.

Points Per Game:……......50.3 (10), 28.6 (6)
Yards Per Game:…………......469 (10), 369 (5)
Rushing Yards Per Game:..283 (10), 218 (2)
Yards Per Carry:………….....6.0 (10), 5.1 (4!)
Passing Yards Per Game:..186 (4), 151 (9)
Completion Percentage:..61.4% (9), 57.1% (4)
Yards Per Point:………….....9.3 (10), 12.9 (7)
Turnovers:…………………...........8 (9), 16 (7)
Sacks:………………………............6 (10), 12 (2)

Returning Starters: 7 (Avg: 6.4), 9 (Avg: 7.4)
Predicted Points Per Game: 40, TBA

Second Down: Line

Our moms all taught us if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all, right? Okay then…

Well sorry mamma, but I have to: WSU's defensive line last year was the single worst unit I've seen in however many years of watching and covering this sport. Their sack total through their nine conference games – seven – comes close to matching their six yards per rush allowed. Not a good thing.
The fun part is that three of last year's starters and six of the top-eight depart, but again, hard to do worse than 5.8 yards per carry allowed overall (which was WSU's worst total in over 20 years). WSU's junior college transfers all seem to be D linemen, which is either sheer coincidence or an implicit admission by the coaching staff that they need help on the line and how. Either way, transfers Brandon Brankin, Bernard Wolfgramm, Josh Luapo and Jessy Sanchez all figure to get more than their fair shot at making an impact alongside sole returning starter Kevin Kooyman, an end.

Rating: 1

Third Down: Linebackers

Like the tailback group on offense, this unit is the clear strength of WSU's defense. Sophomore Louis Bland was a freshman All-American last year, Andy Mattingly is a senior returning starter, and Myron Beck also started nine games last year when not battling injury. The major question, however, is how the Cougars will replace Defensive MVP middle linebacker Greg Trent, who led the Cougars with 88 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss. Mike Ledgerwood, a lightly-recruited true sophomore, might be the man tasked with filling Trent's shoes, and if so, that's a major downgrade for the Cougars. Still, this is the D's best unit, made all the stronger by Mattingly's move from defensive end.

Rating: 2

Fourth Down: Secondary

WSU's 13 opponents only attempted 328 passes last year, with six of WSU's foes attempting 21 or fewer passes. Unfortunately, most teams avoided the air out of deference not to the secondary, but a 40-point lead and a line that allows six yards per carry.
In the limited action they did see, the secondary acquitted itself decently, with the 58% completion percentage respectably poor, not horrifically so, to borrow a phrase from our offensive preview. All four starters, corners Devin Giles and Romeo Pellum and safeties Chima Nwachukwu and Xavier Hicks, are returning upperclassmen starters, so the addition of another Cal transfer in Brandon Jones means there will be competition in the backfield. This unit should push the linebackers for the honor of being the best group on a poor team, though the numbers might be worse as WSU's games are inevitably more competitive than they were last year and teams do choose to pass more.

Rating: 2

Overtime: The Verdict

2008 Record: (2-11, 1-8)/(5-7, 4-5)
2009 Projected Record: (1-11, 0-9)/TBA

2009 Projected Pac-10 Finish: 10th/TBA

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