It began as a request from scout.com, asking CF.C for a list of the 10 best Cougar football players for 2013. We solicited subscribers, readers and twitter followers, put it all into our crystal ball and then had our editors come up with the list. Today, we reveal the fourth member of the list...
4. Ioane Gauta
It seems like it's been a while since a Coug inside d-lineman has posted 8.5 tackles-for-loss, doesn't it.
But Ioane Gauta, (his name is pronounced "U-wahn-nee Now-tuh"), started all 12 games at the nose for the Cougs last season and posted those TFL numbers among his 31 tackles.
"Junior" also picked off one pass and made a fumble recovery. And in the monster 2012 Apple Cup win for the Cougars, he started the game with a sack. Two of his four tackles actually went for sacks. That's a heckuva stat line for an interior d-lineman.
But he was also key on a number of other plays that didn't show up in the box score. And when a nose tackle (or DT) makes those kinds of plays, everyone knows it and momentum usually follows. He was a big reason why the Cougs' run defense was mostly salty this past season.
BUT THE 6-foot-3 Gauta looked different this spring. He shed nearly 20 pounds, going from 305 to 286 and in a game where fans equate bigger with being better, the slimmed down Gauta made some Cougar fans nervous.
On one hand, there have been plenty of very effective interior d-linemen who weigh less than 300 pounds. Playing the position is more about pad level, technique and leverage points than it is about raw strength.
But if you're going to be lighter, a premium must be placed on those things and throughout the game. As fatigue sets in, guys ten to play higher and if you've got less bulk, offensive linemen can become more effective late.
The good news is that in the time the newly svelte Gauta was in there this spring, he was spot-on nails.
CF.C's Joe Doyle, who watched every practice this spring, said that if Gauta and S Deone Bucannon, wouldn't have gotten dinged up, they were more than on their way to joining Darryl Monroe and Xavier Cooper as the defensive spring ball standouts.
The Cougs have a good deal more depth at the nose than before headed into 2013 and everything being equal, there's going to be more rotation at the spot in 2013. But Gauta is key.
He did such a good job last season anchoring the "A" gap. Gauta gets off the snap in a hurry. He's athletic, with surprising quickness -- at both 305 and 286 pounds. He's also expected to be 100 percent by fall camp.
AFTER THE 2012 season, Gauta was named the recipient of WSU's Leon Bender Award for Defensive Lineman of the Year, an honor richly deserved. He, along with Travis Long and Justin Sagote, were singled out by Leach for their defensive leadership in 2012. And Gauta's been a captain on every team he's ever played on during his football career.
Nose tackles, or defensive tackles in the 4-3, don't get the lion's share of the glory on Saturdays. But what they do allow others to.
Gauta, on the other hand, is a load in the middle -- and the kind of player who can do both.
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