STATE OF PLAY: Talking spring D w/ Jody Sears

IN THE FIRST of a multi-part series, putting the recently concluded spring drills at Washington State into context, co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears talks with CF.C on some of the more noteworthy aspects of Cougar defense's performance and development this spring.

Sears said the defense's buy-in level over the 15-practice session was immense. Part was due to the talent that was redshirted last year.

"We have 13 new faces that are eager, they're hungry and they're hanging on everything we're teaching them," said Sears. "And especially over that last week or so, the last 3-4 practices, things really came together well. The kids have really bought into to our goals and objectives -- stopping the run, defending the pass, creating turnovers, being great tacklers.

"There was a lot of buy-in, you could really tell with the passion and enthusiasm. I think the leadership has really taken a large step forward."

Paul Wulff has talked a lot about how any successful, winning team has great leadership from within, that it can't all come from the coaches, it has to come in large part from the players -- if they want to be a highly successful team. Sears says he saw plenty of first hand evidence this spring that the leadership has really taken hold.

"Now we're starting to get some leadership, some older and mature leadership in the mix, guys like Chima Nwachukwu, Kevin Kooyman, Alex Hoffman-Ellis. It's definitely a noticeable difference. I'd throw Myron Beck in there as well and I'm sure I'm forgetting a few here -- there are some young leaders too, guys like Travis Long and Nolan Washington," said Sears.

WITH THE INFLUX of speed on defense, does that mean the Cougars are going to attack more? Will WSU be able to put their corners on an island and flood the line more in both pass and run? Sears wasn't ready to go that far yet.

"There's some semblance of depth now up front. Hopefully we won't get backed into a corner again from an injury standpoint. Last year our hands were a little bit tied, and hopefully with our depth now we can pressure more. But I think it's more accurate to say we're getting closer to that. Understand, we had 13 kids that redshirted -- we still have to teach them how to play Cougar Football. We're starting to get that depth, but we have more to do," said Sears.

This spring, said Sears, was in large part about understanding the base defense comprehensively and in the finer details, getting the base calls down, understanding and executing with consistency on how to shed blockers, how to run to the ball and then after making the right choices and taking the right angles, how to finish the play.

"With that youth also brings some speed, some talent, at some positions that we've lacked a bit these last two years. We still have to be careful how we do this, and let that talent mature naturally," said Sears.

OKAY, BUT HOW MUCH better will the Cougs be on defense this season, coming off a historically bad, and painful, couple of years?

Sears declined to try and predict that in a quantifiable sense -- in yards allowed or points scored against. He did say, stress really, that Cougar Nation would see clear and definable improvement on D in 2010.

"We're going to be a lot different -- we're going to be a lot bigger, a lot stronger, a lot faster," said Sears. "Listen, just the average Joe off the street if he came to spring practices can see, if he was to compare last year to this year, that we're a lot bigger, a lot stronger, a lot faster. You add in the leadership and the energy that is developing as we speak...we're beginning to develop a really good culture, a real Cougar type of defense."

THE VOLUNTARY SUMMER workouts, said Sears, will be huge in terms of how successful WSU will be this season. The players have done great work in winter workouts and this spring, he said, but they must now follow through and continue that upward glide path this summer.

"And I'm really anxious to see these kids come back from the summer," said Sears. "There's been noticeable, measurable improvement and progress. And now I can't wait to see them in August and see the further gains they've made during the summer.

"And Coach Ball does a great job, a tremendous job in challenging these kids. They've really taken hold of it. 'Coach Baller' has done a great job in establishing culture. They know exactly what we want, they know exactly what we're trying to have them do and the level of clarity on that is really sharp. It's really been made clear to them, and coach Ball has done a great, great job of that."

Check back soon for more of this multi-part series, putting both the post-spring offense and defense into context through insights from Cougar offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy and co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears.

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