WSU football: Depth chart breakdown on D

PULLMAN -- The official depth chart from Washington State for Week 1 won't be out until next week, but I’ll go position by position and break it all down on my defensive depth chart right now.


Defensive End
1. Darryl Paulo
2. Jeremiah Mitchell
3. Reggie Coates

Paulo has the end spot all but locked up in my view. He’s playing with most consistency and has frequently been disruptive. Paulo is instinctive, a leader and has been very good at getting to the quarterback and running back. Mitchell and Coates are alternating snaps on the second string. It should be highly intriguing to see how much d-line coach Joe Salave'a rotates in those two in the first part of the season, and what the results will be.

Nose Tackle
1. Robert Barber
2. Daniel Ekuale

This, as Salave'a said last night in the Cougfan TV piece, is a real battle. Ekuale started camp as the No. 1 option, but he's been on the stationary bike of late and Barber is taking advantage of his opportunity. Barber has been playing with the first unit and showing he can keep up. He has shown some nice moves, an ability to shed blocks and rumble on into the backfield.

Defensive Tackle
1. Destiny Vaeao
2. Hercules Mata’afa

Vaeao didn’t see a lot of practice time during the Lewiston days but he’s back to strapping the pads on and is looking good. In addition to his individual play, Vaeao provides stability and leadership. But Mata’afa filled in nicely during Vaeao’s time out of the starting lineup. Mata’afa has been great at getting into the backfield and he brings a lot of speed to the position.

1. Ivan McLennan OR Kache Palacio

I can’t make the call here yet, it's 50-50. Both are receiving virtually equal snaps with the first string. One thing I will say: McLennan has been receiving just a touch more of the first-team snaps, but that might not mean much as coaches will often want to get guys lots of reps without that indicating much in the way of who starts. The two have almost been interchangeable throughout fall ball. They're 1 and 1A headed into Tuesday's practice in my book.

1. Jeremiah Allison
2. Paris Taylor

Allison has the WIL pretty well locked up. He does an excellent job in coverage, chasing down a running back or when he's called upon to get after the QB. Taylor has also shown some nice things in camp, he is coming along. I’m intrigued to see how they use him during the season in relief of Allison.

1. Peyton Pelluer
2. Chandler Leniu

Pelluer looks to have the MIKE locked up. A natural leader and always intense. He doesn’t talk as much as Allison pre-snap, but he’s been solid. Leniu has shown flashes during his reps with the 2s, whether it be picking off a pass or swatting balls away, Leniu’s influence has been felt.

1. Charleston White
2. Kirkland Parker
3. David Bucannon

White (when healthy) was the Cougs' best corner in the early stages of camp. Of late, he has been getting in his running, doing some skeleton work and keeping in the mix, but no contact. If White were to miss time, Parker could slide in here but you could also see Pippins move here with Molton taking Pippins spot. See below.

1. Marcellus Pippins
2.. Darrien Molton
3. Pat Porter

Pippins and Molton have played well as WSU's top two corners with White out. Parker is also getting run with the first string during skeleton and 11v11. Porter hasn't been playing badly, just not as crisp as the guys ahead of him. Same goes for Bucannon, he's had his moments with some good coverage.

1. Darrius Lemora
2. Isaac Dotson (pictured above)
3. Darrien Molton

Nickel is a little complicated, the Cougars are moving guys around with White out. Dotson has done some good things here when they've shuffled around, he's seen a lot of first-team snaps at the nickel. All things equal, though, I think we'll see Lemora here and Dotson back to his strong safety spot if everyone is healthy. Molton, in the reps he's received with the first unit at nickel, has also played well as the nickel.

Free Safety
1. Taylor Taliulu
2. Willie Roach

Taliulu is the starter barring something completely expected. Roach is playing at a higher level than I expected but he's got three guys at the safety spot he'd have to climb over. Taliulu is one of the leaders of the 2015 defense and the only Cougar senior in the secondary.

Strong Safety
1. Isaac Dotson
2. Shalom Luani

Whether at nickel back or safety, Dotson figures to make an impact on game day for the Cougars. Luani, meanwhile, is going to be hard to keep off the field. He is one of the hardest hitting Cougs. He’s made some of the most literal impact on the field during fall camp.

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