Top 10 Cougs version 2.0

FORECASTING THE college football world is like a tee shot on a long, narrow fairway. It's tough to stripe one. When you nail it, you want to crow about it for weeks. When you don't, you never want to talk about it again. So here we are holding our own feet to the proverbial fire by revisiting our prediction from early summer on who we thought would be the 10 best Cougar football players of 2013.

Surprisingly, a whopping nine of the 10 players we tabbed in the summer remain on our revised list that has eight games of evidence behind it. But the order in which they stack up is quite different -- at least after you get by the No. 1 spot.

Here's how our list looked before the season:
1. Deone Bucannon
2. Darryl Monroe
3. Connor Halliday
4. Ioane Gauta
5. Gabe Marks
6. Xavier Cooper
7. Brett Bartolone
8. Elliott Bosch
9. Andrew Furney
10. Dom Williams

Bartolone, who has been injured much of the year, was the only clear choice to be removed from the list. He has played in just five games this season with 10 catches for 53 yards.

But that only opened up one spot and after the first eight games, how do you not include players such as Cyrus Coen, Toni Pole, Justin Sagote and Damante Horton?

Because if you want to add them, then three more players above have to come off the list. And how the hell do you do that?

These are the things that keep us up late at night. But after lengthy, spirited discussions at World Headquarters, we've come up with the revised Top 10 Cougars of 2013 -- though we reserve the right to issue 3.0 following the end of the season.

Without further ado, we present the new top 10, counting upward from 10th ...

10. Andrew Furney: The Cougs' kicker drops one spot on our 2.0 list not because of performance – he's 10-12 on field goal attempts and perfect on extra points (31-31) – but because our No. 8 choice has made such a big impact.

9. Dom Williams: He leads the Cougars in yards per reception (16.3) and is second on the team in TD grabs with four. Keeping him at No. 9 was based on Williams being seventh on the team in receptions (23).

8. Cyrus Coen: The Cougar linebacker is tied with Darryl Monroe for second on the team in tackles with 49 and is one of four Cougs' tied for the team lead in sacks with 3.0 (Cooper, Gauta, Monroe.) It was difficult enough to leave Coen off the list at the start of the season, it would be criminal not to include him now.

7. Connor Halliday: Take away the interceptions, and assuming the eventual result of some of those drives, and Halliday probably makes a run at No. 1 here. But at the end of the day, so much of the good work he has done has been counter-balanced by the 17 picks, the most among FBS quarterbacks. That good work, however, has to also be acknowledged with his placement here.

6. Elliott Bosch: The anchor of an o-line that has performed far beyond (low) expectations – WSU has allowed but 15 sacks, putting them on pace to allow 22.5 this season. Compare that to last year, when WSU allowed fifty-freaking-seven. A remarkable improvement. And Bosch has led the way on a unit that includes Gunnar Eklund and John Fullington, and guards Joe Dahl and Matt Goetz (3 starts).

5. Gabe Marks: It was very difficult not to move Marks up the list. He's by far the leading Cougar receiver with more than twice the number of catches of anyone else (59) and he's tied for the team lead in TD grabs (5). But there have been some untimely drops of late and he's often been right on the edge of drawing a 15-yard flag for his outbursts after a play.

4. Xavier Cooper: The redshirt-sophomore leads the Cougs in tackles for loss with 9.5 among his 30 stops and also shares the team lead in sacks (3.0). There are times Cooper suddenly disappears, mostly when a defense adjusts and starts doubling him, but there have also been times, such as in the second quarter at Oregon last Saturday, when he looks all but unstoppable.

3. Darryl Monroe: The only reason the Cougar MIK drops a spot is because he hasn't been quite as noticeable the last few games – and that's likely only due to injury. Still, Monroe started out the season like a house on fire and is tied for second in both tackles (49) and TFL and the fact he continues playing at as high a level as he has, when the cameras have caught him grimacing in pain at times, is a testament to what might be still to come this season and beyond from the third-year sophomore.

2. Ioane Gauta: The Cougar nose tackle, who also lines up on the outside, has been stellar through eight games. His crooked stat line is one thing – 30 tackles, 6.5 for loss, 3 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 2 QB hits, 1 forced fumble – but equally impressive is how his play has made everyone around him better, most notably Pole and Cooper. Enjoy watching him for the rest of this season, because the senior only has four -- or five -- games left in a Cougar uniform.

1. Deone Bucannon: Far and away the Cougars' leading tackler with 73 tackles, including a high percentage of solo stops with 47. Bucannon shares the interception lead on the team with four (Horton) and leads the Cougs with three forced fumbles. The Cougar secondary has not been great this season, and Bucannon has made some bad reads in recent games. But all you need to know about Bucannon's worth can be found when you consider where WSU's defensive backfield would be without him. He is a virtual lock to be playing on Sundays.

Back to some brutal decisions that had to be made ...

Damante Horton: If this list was made after Week 4, the Cougar cornerback is probably in the top five, such was his impact. He's still tied for the team lead with four picks and his night at USC was one for the ages. But he's been far less visible since Stanford and the secondary has gotten torched over the last four games -- including the only win over that 1-3 stretch, at Cal.

Toni Pole: The numbers don't do justice to the d-lineman's play through eight games: 14 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble and 1 hellacious QB hit and hurry that turned into Horton's pick-6 against USC.

Justin Sagote: The WIL in the Cougars' scheme doesn't get the glory that others do and his 45 tackles this season are some of the quietest 45 you'll ever see.

Marcus Mason: Did you know the WSU running back is third on the team in receptions (27) and has the most carries (47) on the team?

Daquawn Brown: The freshman cornerback has played a lot more than his three starts would suggest -- surprisingly to some no doubt is that he is tied for fourth in tackles (45) and leads the team in pass break-ups (6). Just as valuable in our view has been his infectious enthusiasm and a strong ability to immediately follow up a mistake with a solid play.

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