The impact sophomore is a huge difference maker for the Cougar defense and another player that we’ve talked almost over-extensively for the past month or so. Though his play will be most important, it will probably be on his teammates to keep him free and allow him to make the instinctive plays he’s capable of making. If they can do that, Monroe is capable of a 100 tackle plus season to follow his 80 tackle effort in 2012.
In all successful 3-4 defensive schemes there is a guy in the middle who holds down the middle by occupying two blockers, Gauta is that man for the Cougs. He doesn’t really need to make sacks but he’ll need to push the pocket in the passing game and just make sure his linebackers continue to have a free hand (getting to one side of the blocker) to make the necessary plays in the run game. Almost just as important is going to be fellow nose tackle Toni Pole, as Gauta probably can’t go more than a few plays in a row.
If there’s one guy that Washington State absolutely cannot afford to lose, it’s Bucannon. He is more than just the best player on this Cougar team, he’s a legitimate top safety in the conference. There’s not much else to say but that he needs to have a game-changing season for this Cougar defense to make the jump they need to in order to stay competitive.
More on Monroe and Bucannon as the breakout defensive players to watch out for here