Rating the Cougs' depth on D

PULLMAN – Washington State's defense is replacing a good amount of its starters from last season but the depth present in the front seven may surprise you. With the countdown to fall camp and the season opener against Rutgers underway, CF.C has rated the Cougars' defensive positional depth on a scale of 1-5.

Defensive line: 4
The reserves on the Cougar D-line had very good springs. At times, the trio of Robert Barber, Daniel Ekuale and Lyman Faoliu wreaked havoc in the offensive backfield just as much as the did starters; Xavier Cooper, Toni Pole and Destiny Vaeao. However, unlike some of the other positions on offense - running back, wide receiver - the second unit overall was a small step back in terms of talent and production this spring. Couple that with Emmitt Su'a-Kalio's departure, who was the best hand-down pass rusher this spring, and thus the reason for a "4" rather than a "5" rating. None of the backups received many reps with the 1s so that also factored into it. But for the most part, when guys like Cooper, Pole or Vaeao need a breather, or when WSU changes the front to employ some of their different looks, the view from here is this: The D-line has able reserves at each spot to plug in for the first time in Mike Leach's tenure, provided the unit continues to perform the way I think they will in fall camp and into the season.

Linebacker: 5
On defense, this is the deepest group at WSU. Every position has a solid backup waiting in the wings ready to produce. MIK Darryl Monroe, BUCK Kache Palacio, SAM Cyrus Coen and WIL Tana Pritchard are the presumed starters, though there are some asterisks there. Ivan McLennan is on Palacio's heels at the BUCK spot. Chester Sua is keeping the pressure on Pritchard at the WIL. Meanwhile, Jeremiah Allison took a big step forward this spring and his versatility is such he can be plugged in at the MIK, WIL and at d-end in the Cougs' nickel package. At the SAM spot, both Mitch Peterson and Paris Taylor both stepped in and made plays during spring ball. The linebacker position is where the most shuffling between the 1s and 2s occurred this spring and that also speaks to the depth. McLennan and Palacio split time with the starters all spring, as did the three SAMs. From my chair, it's a quality nine-man group for the Cougs at linebacker, and it's the premier strength of the defense.

Secondary: 2
This rating is a perfect fit, considering there are only two members of the secondary with any significant game experience. Sophomore cornerback Daquawn Brown and junior free safety Taylor Taliulu now transition from underclassmen getting their feet wet to the only semblance of a veteran presence in the defensive backfield. And the Cougars still have to find enough capable bodies to fill the other two positions. Tracy Clark and Charleston White battled this spring for the cornerback spot opposite Brown, with Clark, who's had issues with consistency, ultimately prevailing headed into the summer. Still, while the cornerback group is young, they certainly doesn't lack talent or potential. Both White and fellow freshman Marcellus Pippins are superb athletes with tremendous leaping ability. Their inexperience at this stage of their careers leads to more questions than answers in terms of consistent reliability. At safety, the starting spot alongside Taliulu looks to be former Bellevue quarterback Isaac Dotson's to lose, but again he's without much experience (seven games as a freshman primarily on special teams.) Beau Glover played well when Dotson missed time this spring with an undisclosed injury, and while the coaches and players raved about Glover's play all spring, he's still undersized and inexperienced. WSU needs a strong fall camp across the board here and for some incoming rookies to show they're ready now.

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