Gesser dissects Cougar defense

IN WATCHING THE majority of the spring practice sessions, Jason Gesser was struck by the depth on the Washington State offensive line – there was very little drop off between the 1s and the 2s. But Gesser did not come away with the same impression when it came to his overall assessment of the Cougar D.

“What concerns me, and I don’t think this is any big secret, is how thin they are,” said Gesser. “On the o-line, there’s not a really big drop off from the 1s to the 2s. Well, you can’t really say the same thing about the defense as a whole. There are some spots where the 1s and 2s are fighting for the starting spot and they’re pretty similar. But overall it’s a drop off from 1s to 2s, that’s the impression I came away with.”

Gesser saw nine practices this spring. In a conversation with this week, he ticked off four key recruits on defense: two in the secondary, one linebacker and one d-linemen, as needing to be ready to compete at a Pac-12 level right away for the Cougs to be successful defensively in 2015. They are CB Treshon Broughton, safety Shalom Luani, linebacker Aaron Porter and d-lineman Jeremiah Mitchell.

“In my opinion they’re going to need to rely on some of those guys coming in. Now, I’m not saying they have to start. But in my opinion they do have to come in and provide depth so the difference between the 1s and 2s is (less pronounced). And those first three games are going to be so, so important, just like they were last year,” said Gesser.

GESSER WAS pleasantly surprised with the play of the d-line this spring.

“I was thinking the same thing on the d-line as I was on the receivers, that losing two starters on the defensive line would mean a dip,” said Gesser. “Only time will tell but we were able to see some good things from the 1s, not just in play but in leadership from guys like Destiny Vaeao (pictured above).

“The defense was fast-paced, high energy this spring and it started with those guys up front. Daniel Ekuale I thought really stepped forward. And I think last year you saw a glimpse here, a glimpse there with some of these guys, but now they’re stepping forward more (consistently) in that role.”

GESSER IS ALSO a fan of new DC Alex Grinch. Gesser said Grinch put a football “on a big old spring” outside the football complex, with players coming in or leaving the complex instructed to take a swipe at it -- to always be thinking about stripping the football.

“I love what Coach Grinch has done in bringing that mentality,” said Gesser.

Is it reasonable to expect a big improvement in that area in 2015?

“I think a big improvement can be reasonably expected,” said Gesser. “There were so few last year so you can only go up, but also because the emphasis on that is so much more on getting those takeaways.”

Gesser also liked the change in energy on defense.

“I think Coach Grinch lost his voice by the second or third day of spring practice,” said Gesser. “He is really kind of a polar opposite from Mike Breske, who was more laid back. Grinch’s biggest emphasis was energy -- fly to the football, strip the football and get turnovers.”

There’s a ways to go, though, Gesser noted. And they’ll need to “hit” on some of those recruits mentioned earlier. But Gesser does like the path they’re on.

“Did they know right at the beginning of the spring what their assignments were and where to be? No, not even close. But they learned quickly and as the spring went on, you saw them get better and better at what Coach Grinch was asking them to do. Grinch started to get a smile on his face as spring went along,” Gesser said.

Gesser noted Charleston White and Sulaiman Hameed as two defensive backs who “I know they got a little dinged up but they showed some good things, played very well this spring.”

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