Breske: D standouts in Midnight Maneuvers

EARNING A BLACK SHIRT after a single Midnight Maneuvers session at Washington State is tough. But earning a black shirt at the end for overall performance is rarer still. One Cougar defensive back accomplished just that, Mike Breske tells We also asked the WSU d-coordinator to weigh in on how other members of the crimson stop corps fared during Midnight Maneuvers out on the Palouse.

The WSU defensive backfield is very young, something that figures to be on display when the Cougs kick off spring drills March 27. The elder statesman of the group with the most experience, safety Taylor Taliulu, however, is off to a very good start in 2014.

"Taylor Taliulu ended up with a black shirt and to get a black shirt at the end, you had to have had a black t-shirt in, I believe, six out of the eight sessions where you had to score black," said Breske. "He did a great job."

Meanwhile in the front seven, Breske said linebackers Tana Pritchard and Darryl Monroe and nose tackle Toni Pole stood out.

"Tana Pritchard had a great, great Midnight Maneuvers, he ended up with the black shirts," said Breske. "He had more days of black than any of the linebackers. Darryl Monroe was right up there too. But Tana was the leader in (black shirts) in the linebackers group.

"On the d-line, Toni Pole was kinda the leader there. And Darryl Paulo had a great session in terms of wearing black. Coop (Xavier Cooper) was kind of on and off, that type of deal, gotta get a little more consistency out of Coop."

THERE WAS, Breske said, more to the performances than just times on a stopwatch.

"You kind of see who your leaders are too within each position," said Breske. "Toni is definitely a leader in the defensive line. Darryl's a leader in the linebacker corps and we're trying to develop one in the DBs just because of our youth. We've asked Taylor to really step up there and he's doing his best. It's a continuation of the growing process for Taylor. I think he's going to be fine."

BY THE WAY, this just in: the Cougars are inexperienced in the secondary and particularly at corner. From our chair pre-spring, most if not all of the DB position battles appear likely to stretch deep into fall camp. That said, there were definite positives that came out of the Maneuvers not only at the safety spot, but also at corner.

"I look at my DBs, like Charleston White who redshirted last year," said Breske, (who also coaches defensive backs in addition to his role as d-coordinator.) "Charleston really came on once he understood what this (MM) process was about. And Daquawn Brown had a great session.

"Daquawn Brown really worked hard, made some good strides from his freshman year. We're going to have some big competition in the back end."

BRESKE'S TIME WAS limited but in addition to the players above, we snuck in additional questions on three more Cougs – a linebacker, defensive back and a d-lineman.

Mike Leach and Co. don't discuss or even confirm injuries but from what CF.C has gathered these past several months, a back issue was at the heart of LB Chester Sua's missing the 2013 season. He's continuing to round into form but the best news is that Sua participated in all eight MM outings and would appear closer to being 100 percent than he has in a long time.

"Chester Sua went through every session," said Breske. "He's kinda still recovering... He had good days, bad days. And it was tough on Chester just because you're on that turf in the bubble… it's that old artificial turf on concrete. I could see that second week when we were going every night (Sun–Wed), I could see the wear and tear a little bit. But he's got this time now to recover and make sure he's in tip-top shape come March 27. And I'm excited to see him (in) spring ball."

A ROOKIE WHO almost certainly would have contributed in '13 had he not gotten injured (reportedly toe surgery) was safety Darius Lemora. But for last year's true freshmen, this February was their first experience in the offseason conditioning circuit at Washington State. And until a player actually goes through Midnight Maneuvers, they can't really know what that means.

"Darius Lemora did good," Brekse said. "He started not in the best of shape - again, a young redshirt freshman, doesn't know. When we got to the eighth session, he was competing much better. But I can't wait to get Darius on the field March 27. He's certainly a candidate to help us – to what degree, we'll find out."

After Lemora returned to action late last season, he simply wowed at times during Thursday Night Football. He's a big hitter, something Breske wryly observed didn't always unfold the way it was drawn up.

"He was something in the back (end). He was a hitting machine, whether it was the same color or the wrong color (laughs). He was going to hit somebody. (He's) still gotta learn the defense," said Breske.

MOVING FROM THE BUCK to the defensive end spot (E) for 2014 is Destiny Vaeao. He too had a strong Midnight Maneuvers showing, says Brekse.

"Destiny Vaeao did very well," said Breske. "He was one of our leaders in the defensive line, competed very well and it showed up every session – he pushed the other guys. I'm really excited about Destiny.

"And again, he just needs to take another step this spring. He's an explosive player and we've got to get more out of him. I just think with another year now – he did not redshirt, because we had to play him as a freshman, got hurt, but played last year – I just think he's going to have a breakout year this year."

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