Scouting Washington State - Defense

The Washington St. Cougars have one of the most explosive offenses in the Pac-10, but the defense has been a real weakness so far this season. The Cougars are currently last in the Pac-10 in scoring defense, giving up 29 points per game.

The Cougars have struggled defending both the pass and the run this year, allowing 403 yards a game. One of the Cougars biggest issues on defense is that they continuously come out of the blocks slow. In all three games this year the defense has surrendered a touchdown on the opponent's opening drive.

In just three games this year the Cougars have allowed a combined 38 points in the first quarter alone.

The Washington State defense will have to play with a greater sense of urgency to have a chance at containing the Trojans high-powered offense.

Spotting the Trojans a quick 14 point is a recipe for disaster for the Cougars this Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Defensive Line

The Cougars great defenses in the past have always been known for having very good pass rushing defensive ends. This season junior Mike Graise and senior Matt Mullennix will have to step up and fill the void left by the departure of All-Pac-10 defensive end Mkristo Bruce.

Backup defensive end Kevin Kooyman leads the team with two sacks so far. One of the strengths of the defensive line is the two massive starting defensive tackles. 6-8, 290 Ropati Pitoitua and 6-7, 318 Aaron Johnson free up a lot of space for middle linebacker Greg Trent to defend the run. Ropati Pitoitua is the Cougars best defensive lineman. In 2006 the big tackle had 37 tackles and 7.5 tackles-for-loss in just nine games.

The battle in the trenches should be one of the most exciting matchups of the night. The Cougars have a big experienced defensive line, and the Trojans proved last week that the sky is the limit for their talented group of offensive linemen.

If the USC offensive line is able to control the line of scrimmage then it could be a real long night for the Cougars defense.

Linebackers

The Cougars have a solid but not spectacular group of linebackers led by defensive co-captain Greg Trent. Trent, the Cougars leading tackler, gives the defense a solid presence in the middle. Starting alongside Trent is junior Cory Evans and redshirt junior Kendrick Dunn.

Dunn has stepped up and become a real playmaker for the defense. On the year Dunn already has two sacks and three tackles-for-loss. Backups Andy Mattingly, Chris Baltzer and Brady Emmons add depth to the unit.

The one knock on the group is that they are a bit undersized. Two out of the three starting linebackers are under 5-11 and weigh less than 225 lbs..

Look for the Trojans to come out and run right at the Cougars undersized linebackers. If the Trojans commit to the run early and continue to play as physical as they did at Nebraska, then they should have no problem gaining yards on the ground.

Saturday could be another big night for Stafon Johnson and C.J. Gable.

Cornerbacks

One of the real vulnerable areas on the Washington State defense is the cornerback position. The Cougars lost both starting cornerbacks from the 2006 team and have replaced them with redshirt sophomore, Devin Giles and a true freshman, Chima Nwachukwu.

The talented but inexperienced corners each had an interception last week against Idaho. The two young corners will get tested early and often against the USC passing attack.

The Trojans haven't been able to get their passing game in sync so far this season, but playing against two inexperienced cornerbacks should provide the Trojans the perfect opportunity to get the passing game back on track.

Safeties

The safety position is one of the strengths of the Washington State defense. Defensive co-captain Husain Abdullah brings leadership and experience to the secondary. Abdullah has started at free safety since the 2005 season and has been on the Cougars top performers this year.

Abdullah had one of the Cougars four interceptions last week against Idaho. At the strong safety spot 5-9, junior Alfonso Jackson will get the start against USC. Jackson has 16 tackles and an interception on the year. Christian Bass and Xavier Hicks should also see action this Saturday.


USCFootball.com Top Stories