Aug 30, 2012; Provo, UT, USA; Washington State Cougars safety Taylor Taliulu (30) on the sideline during the second quarter against the Brigham Young Cougars at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
When people think Cougar defensive backs, they think Deone Bucannon… then it kind of goes blank. Rightfully so, the Cougars haven’t put out a consistent or particularly talented (at least for the Pac-12 level) defensive backfield for the past 7 or 8 seasons. This season, don’t expect anybody to really start knowing names till the second half of the season, but there is ample talent (and even depth, god bless it) finally available. Today we’re looking at the Cougar safety depth.
Since Mike Leach arrived, it’s been a moving party into the secondary but we’re about to see some amount of payoff. Bucannon has been the constant, along with fellow senior Casey Locker, but the ladder might be a backup going into the season for the second year in a row. True sophomore Taylor Taliulu (seen above) has really been coming back around, after starting the 2012 season at free safety and then falling off while dealing with personal issues.
Taliulu looks like he’s ready to reclaim his starting slot as of today, but let’s not give the season spot to him just yet. Leaner and faster (than last season) redshirt senior Anthony Carpenter has moved back from corner to challenge both he and Locker for the starting spot and gives the Cougs coverage skills and experience that those two do not possess in combination with each other. Carpenter is admittedly a more natural safety than corner, solid hitter and sure tackler in the open field which just adds to his immediate value to a secondary that missed far too many plays in the open field last year.
Rs junior Mitch Peterson and Rs Freshman David Bucannon give the Cougs a couple options at strong safety should the unthinkable happen with an injury to Deone. However Leach probably thinks about bringing Taliulu over to strong first (Taliulu ran with the 1’s at strong with D.B. on the sidelines in days 5 and 6 of Fall camp) and filling Carpenter or Locker in at free. Then of course there’s the most recent addition of true freshman Isaac Dotson, who is under the gun and responding decently after moving from quarterback.
At this point it doesn’t look like Darius Lemora or Paris Taylor will be ready in time to compete for playing time if Taliulu continues to impress. I’d bet on them redshirting and bringing their excellent size and big-hit abilities to the practice squad in a few weeks and right near the top of the depth chart in 2014.
Projected Safety depth Chart:
Strong: Deone Bucannon, Taylor Taliulu, Mitchell Peterson, David Bucannon
Free: Taylor Taliulu or Anthony Carpenter, Casey Locker, Isaac Dotson
*Note: Look for each of the first 3 free safeties to get play in all games. Each brings their own specialty to the position and could easily be inserted by possession or by play to match situational needs.