Countdown to Spring: D-Line Preview

FORGET WHAT YOU thought you knew. The defensive line at Washington State this spring figures to look a whole lot different than it once appeared heading into the offseason -- so much so it arguably makes the d-line the most intriguing position to watch this spring out on the Palouse.

That's because there figures to be a whole lot of movement up front and in the box. There are Cougar players this spring who could line up at defensive tackle…or defensive end…or linebacker. Or at all three spots.

A crystalline picture on who is playing where probably won't emerge until the Cougars are well into spring drills – even after the 15 practices are concluded, some questions may still be left unanswered on that front.

Some of the movement may simply be experimental. Some may be because the Cougs need bodies at certain spots this spring – there were 15 offseason surgeries on the defensive side of the ball and some won't be ready to go this spring, Mike Breske told CF.C recently, (he declined to name names in keeping with Mike Leach's policy of not releasing injury information).

But some movement will also be borne of the move to the 3-4, although WSU will be multiple up front under the tutelage of d-line coach Joe Salave'a.

THE NOSE TACKLE spot, ideally, is inhabited by a 300-pounder who can hold his ground and take on double teams. The top interior candidates when spring drills open on Thursday would appear to be Kalafitoni Pole and Anthony Laurenzi.

As a redshirt frosh in 2011, Pole (6-1.5, 292) landed a starting role. Whether he's ready to make a big leap forward in 2012 will depend in large part on how much he learned that first season in the trenches and how his offseason workouts have gone. Laurenzi (6-3, 287) was the Cougs' most productive d-tackle at times last year. But some wonder if, given his quicks, he might get a look at the d-end spot.

Defensive end figures to be relatively flush on paper, although some in the group could still be rehabbing offseason surgeries.

Travis Long (6-4, 256) is the one d-line certainty coming into the spring – he's your bell cow. But he won't always be at one of the d-end spots. Breske has said he'll line up, at times, at all four linebacker positions, too.

Xavier Cooper (6-4, 288), Adam Coerper, (6-4, 262) and Justin Clayton (6-3.5, 281) figure to get long looks on the d-line as well – but will they be at defensive end, or will one or more be on the nose?

A heads up on Cooper -- CF.C's Braulio Perez observed him all last year and says Cooper is his newcomer d-line pick to make an impact. Indeed, Perez said he'll be somewhat surprised if Cooper isn't starting by season's midpoint.

But there's also Ian Knight, (6-2, 240), Lenard Williams (6-4, 250) and Logan Mayes, (6-3, 230). Are they d-ends or are they linebackers in Breske's scheme? (if ‘backer, is the BUCK the best fit?) … Stay tuned.

David Davis (6-2, 272), who spent his freshman year redshirting in 2011, and Steven Hoffart (6-4, 276) are also in the mix. Justin Mann (6-3, 246) was also listed at DT last year.

And then there's Darryl Paulo.

How muck bulk Paulo has added to his frame will help determine whether the redshirt freshman will be on the d-line or at linebacker (the educated guess puts him up front). He's one many think has a bright future on the Cougar D.

One final note: With Leach's offense very rarely using tight ends, could that foretell a move to d-end by Aaron Dunn and/or Andrei Lintz? Time will tell.

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