Cougars' Monroe just has this feeling ...

PULLMAN – CougFans probably don’t know much about the 2010 Dr. Phillips High football team out of Florida, but redshirt-junior linebacker Darryl Monroe does. He was a part of it, before he joined the Cougars the following season. And rather than being just another prep line item on a college football player, Monroe says he has this feeling that history is about to repeat itself …

That Dr. Phillips team went 14-1 en route to the Class 6A state championship game, ultimately losing 42-27 to Miami Central. Dr. Phillips was an offensive juggernaut, putting up more than 48 points per game. The defense allowed its opponents to score only about 10 points per game. In 2010, Darryl Monroe and the Dr. Phillips team were simply stifling.

“Before the season even started, I knew that we were going to be something special, and I just enjoyed every moment of it,” Monroe said.

That probably doesn’t mean much when you hear it by itself. It sounds like just another impressive prep history lesson.

But wait.

Monroe said he feels the same way about this year’s Cougar squad. If his intuition is right, CougFans can look forward to quite the treat on the field in 2014.

The crux of that Dr. Phillips team, Monroe said, was the teammates’ drive to compete with each other, which constantly pushed the standard for success higher.

“We were a tight-knit group and it was just the type of deal where everybody just enjoyed playing with each other,” Monroe said. “I feel like that team deserved a documentary because it was so special. There was never a boring day or a bland day. We always were excited, no matter how hard it was, and one of the reasons I feel like we were so good is, we had a lot of talent, but we competed amongst each other in every game.”

The players at Dr. Phillips always fed off of each other -- Monroe said that if he were to earn 10 tackles in a game, his teammates would jokingly tell the defensive coordinator that Monroe should come out because they didn’t have any chances to make tackles. Each week, the leaders in tackles, interceptions and other categories would be recognized so that everyone would strive to have the highest numbers after each game.

The 6-1 Monroe said the same kind of winning identity is developing in Pullman. He also said this 2014 team is better than last year’s in terms of maturity and leadership. The players on this team really, really can’t stand to lose, he said, and they want to make the necessary changes in order to win the next game. That work ethic is perhaps embodied most by Monroe himself.

“Just his enthusiasm and his want to win,” corner Daquawn Brown said. “You want to play with a guy who wants to win so bad, and wants you to do so good. He’s giving his full effort so you might as well give your full effort too. That’s what makes him a good leader to me.”

Brown and Monroe are usually the ones who are pushing each other on the field vocally. Brown said earlier in camp that he and Monroe build each other up in terms of creating hype on the defense. Those two are now regarded as two of the leaders of this defense now that Deone Bucannon and Damante Horton are gone, which means they have to set the tone for the younger players who represent the future of the WSU program.

“Darryl’s a hard worker, and he’ll get on you when you’re not doing what you’re supposed to,” junior safety Taylor Taliulu said. “I really respect him and a lot of guys like Toni Pole and Xavier Cooper, some of the older guys are really pushing us young defensive backs to improve our game, and I think that’s a positive.”

You always seem to hear about why this year’s team is different/better than last year’s. But Monroe insists the ;14 vintage is different from last year, himself included, because the starters last year were younger and they were a group who played under the leadership of Bucannon and Horton. Now, this defensive group is led by guys like Monroe, Brown and Taliulu, and they all understand now what it takes to win.

“We didn’t have anybody to show us that this is how it’s done, this is how you’re supposed to do it, this is what it’s going to take to win, this is what it’s going to take to get there,” Monroe said of his early years at WSU. “We had to find that out on our own. With us having a little bit of success last year, I feel like with that younger class coming under us, that we’re showing them this is the way things are done around here. This is how we compete, these are our standards, and so that’s bringing the whole team up as far as competition, maturity, morale, all that stuff.”

In order to find success in the way Monroe’s prep team did his senior year, the Cougars will need to overcome adversity. But the biggest opponent for the Cougars is not the Oregon Ducks, nor the Stanford Cardinal, or any team in the Pac-12 for that matter, according to Monroe.

“We’re going to have success, and in order to have success than we’re going to have, we’re going to really have to harp on handling our success, and worrying about us,” Monroe said. “That’s what it’s going to be. We’re about what we do, not about who we’re playing against, and that’s the only thing I’m really concerned about.”

The danger of a prediction like this lies in the desire to want it all too early. The WSU coaches have told this team to play the next play and take the season one game at a time. Monroe said the Cougars still struggled with that last season, and it showed on the schedule. He recalled the upset of the USC Trojans on the road, and he said that required the Cougars to isolate what they had just done and go on to beat the other good teams in the Pac-12.

After that win against the Trojans, the Cougars rattled off two more against non-conference opponents before falling apart against Stanford. Monroe said the team has learned its lesson from last season and is ready to move on to greater things in 2014.

“Whoever we see, wherever we see them, i hope they’re ready because we will be,” Monroe said.

Monroe says he’s added six pounds since his initial weigh-in that is listed on the roster at 235 pounds. Now at 241, Monroe feels bulkier and leaner, but also able to run around more freely than last season. He said the adjustment helps him in every stage of his game, like “shedding blocks, tossing guys around, making tackles, holding your ground, pretty much everything a linebacker needs in play-to-play action.”

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