WSU football: The truth on D, according to Yogi Roth

CAN WASHINGTON STATE, coming off a 9-4 campaign, take the next step and win the Pac-12 this season? As always, so much of the offseason discussion centers around the league’s offenses. But Pac-12 Networks analyst Yogi Roth each year looks at some key indicators on the other side of the ball.

“We do a study every year in this conference about ‘the truth,’ and when we get to the truth about the teams that win the conference over the last nine years, they’re usually in the top one-third in turnover differential, if not at the top, and they’re always in the top one-third in run defense and yards per rush,” Roth told CF.C.

That would indicate the Cougs have work to do.  WSU was on pace to finish No. 3 in the conference in turnover margin last year but a 7-turnover day in the Apple Cup dropped WSU to 10th in the Pac-12 when it was all said and done. The Cougs were seventh in rushing defense and 10th in yards per rush allowed (4.9).

“The stats I look at are yards per rush, yards per play and what do you do inside the red zone defensively -- are you giving up touchdowns or field goals?” said Roth. “Because everyone is going to put up yards. But can you hold up - and the way you hold up to me in this conference is with unique pressures up front and with guys in the back end.”

Washington State this season will be replacing Taylor Taliulu at safety plus d-tackle Destiny Vaeao, d-end Darryl Paulo and RUSHs Kache Palacio and Ivan McLennan. But the Cougs return 2015 breakout safety Shalom Luani (a Roth favorite, pictured above) and starting nose tackle Robert Barber plus rising d-linemen such as Daniel Ekuale and Hercules Mata'afa.

And Roth, who emceed the Portland Night with Cougar Football a few weeks back, likes the makeup of the WSU defensive staff.

“This staff is exciting, they have some real juice to them,” said Roth. “I was really impressed with everyone I met… these are guys that are just going to get after it on the defensive side of the ball.

“They lose some guys, but the thing they have is continual growth within the system… I think they totally can continue to grow on (defense in '16). They need to continue to grow at the safety position, and continue to get some pressure up front.”

We’ll have more from Roth in the coming days.

Yogi Roth is a studio and game analyst for the Pac-12 Networks as well as a producer, and has also served as an analyst and producer for ESPN and FOX. His documentary film about his father, Life in a Walk, is available for purchase on iTunes.

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