Defensive End: A CF.C fall camp preview

WAZZU DISPLAYED SOME solid improvement at defensive end this past spring and in particular at containing the outside run -- but that also comes with a caveat. Meanwhile, a pair of seniors with experience, a junior who is turning heads and a freshman or two who might be ready to play early, and play well, are all in the mix starting Sunday. The CF.C positional overview of defensive end follows...


DEPTH CHART: RER-SrJesse Feagin II (6-2, 266);  Jr. Casey Hamlett (6-2, 239);  Fr. Travis Long (6-4, 245)  | LE: Sr. Kevin Kooyman (6-6, 246);  R-FrAdam Coerper (6-4, 250), Fr. Jordan Pu'u-Robinson (6-4, 256);  Fr. Justin Clayton (6-4, 268)

PLAYERS LOST:  Matt Mullennix (Started 13 games in '08, with 50 tackles), Mike Graise (Started one game and played in seven last season)

INJURIES:  Kooyman missed a good portion of the spring but returned to crack pads in the latter half, and Sanchez was also limited. Cory Mackay had a terrific spring and appeared ticketed for a starting job but a tragic car accident has rendered football out of the equation as he continues to work his way back.  

OVERVIEWThe defensive ends, along with the line in general, were noticeably more physical against the run during the spring. It's a mix of a little bit of everything out on the edge, with senior veterans, an up and coming first year Cougar transfer and freshmen, some of whom could be counted upon to perform early.

The defensive ends as a group performed fairly well in the spring but that was also with Mackay in the fold.

Kooyman is the most experienced of the group, with six starts and 12 games played last season.

He has shown plenty of flashes over his WSU career, starting with his true freshman season. He's been slowed at times by the injury bug but if he can keep from incurring too many dings in '09, he has the ability to stop ballcarriers from gaining the edge and get to the QB.

Feagin will be counted upon this year after sitting out last season to concentrate on the books. He lined up inside for much of spring ball but whether he stays there, moves back outside or shifts around on the line remains to be seen.

Feagin has playmaker potential, and he's physical. It's a matter of finding the right spot and then executing.  

Long might author one of the more compelling stories this fall camp. You just do not see many guys his size move like he can, both in and out of space. He truly looks like he's running downhill at times and when he makes contact, with close to 250 pounds coming at a high rate of speed, the sound echoes across the field. 

He has tremendous upside, so much so he might start at some point this year. That's not to say he's all the way there yet -- he has plenty to learn, will undoubtedly make freshman mistakes and him potentially starting is also due to a lack of experienced depth. But looking long term, from an overall WSU career perspective, keep an eye out for him.

Hamlett was the surprise of the spring session out on the Palouse. A transfer walk on at WSU, he showed consistent improvement over the 15-day session and a revved up motor.

He's not an uber-athlete, but he made plays when others blessed with more athleticism did not. Bottom line, he served notice this spring he's a legit Pac-10 defensive end. Whether he earns starting time or gets reps in rotation should start to be sorted out on Monday. 

Coerper is still just a redshirt frosh but he added 10 pounds between last fall and this spring and is in the mix. Pu'u-Robinson has a big upside but has lots to learn, as does fellow freshman Clayton.  All three have abilities but it will take a good chunk, if not all, of fall camp to see how far along they are and if they're ready to make an impact in '09.

The No. 1 job this fall for the d-ends (and line in general) is to be more physical against the run. The defensive ends as a group have posted solid  strength and weight gains across the board this offseason -- there will be a louder pop out on the field and the Cougs will be better.

But how much improved remains to be seen, and fall camp will be critical for a number of defensive ends as the fight for jobs begins in earnest on Sunday morning.

AN OPTIMIST WOULD SAYBigger, stronger and faster. The Cougs will play the run better and put more heat on the QB. Kooyman will take it to the next level, Feagin will surprise opposing defensive coordinators and Hamlett will have other schools wondering why they didn't offer him a few years back. And Long will take the first step on what might well be a special career at WSU. Pu'u-Robinson might not be ready to contribute as early as this year but if he works hard at it, he can be a special player for Wazzu. 

A PESSIMIST WOULD SAYLosing Mackay is a big loss, and while there will be improvement, the Cougs might still be a year away at defensive end. The Cougars have some speed at d-end, but not an abundance of it, and containing the stretch play is going to be a challenge.

STAR PLAYER:  Kevin Kooyman.

UNIT STRENGTHStrength and increased size across the board.

UNIT WEAKNESS:  Experience. 

WULFF: "We have some young athletes...there is not a lot of experience. There is some ability that can make something happen and develop...Casey Hamlett showed some things in spring football...You may see some first-year players come in this fall and that may add depth. Obviously the loss of Cory Mackay is a big blow to that position and that will be something we have to overcome as a unit and a team."


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