Two key trends when considering Cougar D

THE NO-HUDDLE, hurry up offense has significantly eroded a defense’s ability to match up through personnel substitutions. So how does Washington State get back to fielding a stout, powerful stop corps in 2014? For starters, by continuing two specific trend lines.

When defensive coordinator Mike Breske arrived at Washington State, he preached two things: takeaways and getting off the field on third down.

WSU showed significant improvement in both areas last year.

It wasn't enough to field an overall tightfisted D, but if they take a similar step forward in 2014 in those categories, that will almost certainly change.

Consider that in Breske’s first year, the Cougs ranked No. 66 in takeaways in the FBS, call it middle of the pack.

Last year, the Cougs bounced all the way up to t-10th nationally in turnovers gained.

In 2012, WSU was No. 100 in third down stops on defense, in the lower third of the FBS.

Last year, the Cougars jumped 50 spots, finishing at No. 50.

Those are two healthy gains.

WSU will be young in the secondary this season but the d-line and linebackers will mostly be in their third year with Breske – that's enough reason to believe the Cougars can better those stats, particularly third-down defense.

And that’s what defense has become. It’s about giving the offense more possessions. It’s about stopping teams in the red-zone, about forcing teams to kick field goals rather than score touchdowns. Gone are the days when great defenses held teams to fewer than 300 yards. That benchmark is now more like 380 yards and headed up.

One of the best defenses out there currently, Michigan State’s, leaves its cornerbacks on an island in man coverage and uses a ton of zone blitzes. WSU likely doesn’t have the shutdown corner personnel to fully commit to that stratagem in 2014.

But MSU also disguises their scheme. At the snap, MSU might look to be in their base, but as soon as the ball moves they immediately shift to something else. That throws the offense off-balance.

And that’s something WSU might do more of this year.

A critical determination will be made at some point in fall camp on just what the Cougs are capable of in terms of the defensive secondary and the overall defense.

And that will in turn determine whether the Cougs improve on their takeaways and third down stops in 2014, and on defense as a whole.

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