For my final segment recapping the final scrimmage of spring football for Washington State, time to turn attention to the Cougar defense. If Coach Mike Leach is to guide his team to postseason play in 2013, it’s critical his defense leads the way.
Several things jump out when comparing the defense of this team to the group in spring camp last season.
There are more big bodies ready to attack and destroy opposing offensive units.
Up front for defensive coordinator Coach Mike Breske was limited this spring with his biggest, baddest bodies sidelined.
Despite missing Ioane Gauta and Toni Pole, the hosses in the front were effective against an improved Cougar offensive line. Xavier Cooper is poised to make a huge impact wherever he lines up this fall. Cooper was impressive as a freshman and appears to have put in the work necessary to take it to the next level.
In terms of depth, WSU looks solid in two areas. As mentioned in Part 2, the Cougs have a lot of talent lining up at wide receiver. Just as impressive is the linebacking corps under the leadership of first year Coach Ken Wilson. Could be the chip on Coach Wilson’s shoulder may spill over to linebacker play this coming season. Kache Palacio looks great at the BUCK position in terms of both speed and making plays. No question WSU is solid in the middle with Darryl Monroe sticking his helmet into virtually every play. The other two outside positions appear rich in talent based on the scrimmage. Justin Sagote, Eric Oertel and Jeremiah Allison seemed to put themselves in position to make plays continually.
Though clearly a work in progress, the Cougar secondary has the athletic talent to get the job done. Going up against the multiple attack of talented wideouts in a toned down version of the Air Raid, WSU defensive backs were challenged. For most of the scrimmage they managed to keep play in front of them and stifle deep patterns. Anthony Carpenter at corner and safety Taylor Taliulu seemed to be everywhere. Given the number of reps Rahmel Dockery has logged at corner, he looks to have all-conference potential.
If the play of the front seven continues to build on scrimmage performance, there won’t be games lost to second half big plays this season. Looking back on 2012, numerous losses were the result of one or two long gainers opening up because opposing quarterbacks weren’t consistently pressured in the third and fourth quarter of play.
Having tapped out hundreds of words in this series, one thing must be reiterated.
The Crimson and Gray Game isn’t a game. It’s a scrimmage.
There is a huge difference between a game and a scrimmage. But in terms of assessing the ability and potential of this squad there’s no doubt in my mind Cougar football is building toward something special.
Watching the players during the autograph session, during warmups, during pre-game routines and during the scrimmage they are a TEAM. For Washington State to be successful, they have to act as a team on the field. Judging by the way these guys act off the field they are going to grow together as a TEAM.
The other area where progress appears to be made is execution. When plays were executed well during the scrimmage, guys weren’t going overboard with histrionics. Sure there was a show of enthusiasm, but it was at an appropriate level.
These players may just be getting to the point where they expect good things to happen.