The No. 1 on-field priority for new Coug DL coach would seem clear based on these data points

NO MATTER WHO Mike Leach hires as the new defensive line coach at Washington State, the top on-field priority this spring, and for the 2017 campaign, would seem clear as day in considering these data points.

In Football Outsiders’ 2016 defensive line rankings, the Wazzu DL did fairly decent against the run this past season. But FO’s rankings also reveal, and with striking clarity, the Cougar d-line is in need of significant improvement against the pass in 2017.

  • In adjusted sack rate in 2016, the WSU DL ranked 110th out of 128 FBS teams.
  • In standard down sack rate, the WSU DL ranked 117th.
  • In passing down sack rate, the WSU DL ranked 80th.

Sacks aren't the only thing when it comes to defensive line play. But they do paint a picture of how much heat a defensive line is putting on the QB.  And if you combine sacks with tackles for loss, that lends even more insight into a d-line's performance level.  In 2016, Washington State ranked t-78 in tackles for loss (5.5).

The 2016 Cougar d-line did fare better in FO's rankings against the run. 

In adjusted line yards, standard downs line yards per carry and passing downs line yards per carry, the Wazzu d-line ranked 32nd, 33rd and 47th, respectively.  In opportunity rate, power success rate and stuff rate, the Cougar DL ranked 42nd, 22nd and 7th. (For category definitions, click here).

Still, the Pac-12 is a passing league. If WSU's d-line is to take a leap forward in 2017, it has to improve against the pass. 

Plus, it's not as if Wazzu's DL rankings against the run signify the Cougs have arrived.  Consider the following when it comes to the 2017 race in the Pac-12 North and the role the defensive line plays in it: the first graphic is WSU's 2016 DL rankings from Football Outsiders. The second graphic is a comparison to the UW DL rankings.

Football Outsiders

Football Outsiders

* UW's d-line ranked 40th in TFL this past season.

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