Aug 31, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Washington State Cougars linebacker Darryl Monroe (13) puts on his helmet during the pre-game practice prior to the game against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
In the first two parts of this series covering the annual Crimson and Gray scrimmage, focus was on the Washington State offense. This time around we’ll look at the defensive side of Cougar football.
As a point of reference, Coach Mike Leach and his staff saw the WSU offense put up some pretty gaudy numbers last Saturday. On the surface it would seem to beg the question, “Has the Cougar defense made any progress since last season?”
In terms of what we saw in the scrimmage, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about Washington State to be a much improved defensive ball club in 2014. Also, a realistic review of the Cougar D must be assessed with the caveat they were going up against the CougAir passing attack destined to be one of the Top 5 in the nation next fall.
It’s also important to remember that there is little creativity in play calling by either the offense or defense during an intrasquad scrimmage. The focus isn’t on winning, though you’ll be hard pressed to get student-athletes to turn down their competitive volume. Spring scrimmage is a time to evaluate player competency, then prepare a course of action to improve.
The Crimson and Gray scrimmage was a chance to see what guys will do in specific game-like situations.
More times than not any defensive unit reflects the attitude and play of the middle linebacker. That is both the case and an extreme plus for the Cougs. Redshirt junior Darryl Monroe played some good football last season. Monroe appears to have stepped up his game another notch or two by showing even quicker reaction to plays unfolding, keeping the game in front of him and spreading his infectious enthusiasm among teammates.
Another redshirt junior to expect good things from is JC transfer Ivan McLennan who definitely looks Pac-12 ready. McLennan seems a good fit for the BUCK linebacker postion as witnessed by the amount of time he spent in the backfield harassing Connor Halliday and the other Cougar quarterbacks.
Though still a bit undersized, redshirt freshman Peyton Pelluer impressed with his speed and sure tackling. Pelluer led the defensive effort with 8 tackles.
Since Coach Mike Breske‘s defense has 4 linebackers when set up in their base formation, not only is linebacker play critical to stifling opponents, depth is required to maintain pressure.
Redshirt junior Chester Su’a looked like the playmaker folks expected when he arrived in Pullman and will see plenty of playing time this fall.
Of the guys taking the field last Saturday, junior Jeremiah Allison may have shown the most promise and progress of anyone. Allison flew to the ball regardless of the side of the field the play was directed. No question he will be pushing returning starters to earn playing time.
- DEFENSIVE BACKS
With the departure of Deone Bucannon and Damonte Horton, many have valid concerns about the cover guys in 2014. Though WSU won’t line up D-backs with a lot of Pac-12 game experience, there will be plenty of talented players ready to make their mark in the conference.
Who will step up for the Cougs at the safety and corner position this coming season?
No question sophomore Daquawn Brown will have his name called repeated by announcers covering Cougar football. Brown was impressive as a freshman last year and the young man from Los Angeles looked better than ever. He showed why he is on track to be All-Pac-12 at cornerback when he jumped a route for an interception in the end zone, making the play easily. Like Monroe, Brown is an emotional leader on the field.
Speaking of Bucannon, his younger brother redshirt sophomore David Bucannon seemed to be everywhere on the field when he was in the game Saturday. Bucannon appears to be a lock at safety as witnessed by the 7 tackles he amassed during the scrimmage.
Redshirt sophomore Beau Glover covered a lot of ground and seemed to be everywhere. Coaches and teammates support the notion Glover has earned both respect and playing time. Listed as a DB, he looked every bit the part of a safety. OK, not every bit. Glover is a little undersized when compared to your typical Pac-12 safety. But when it’s time to lace ’em up, it’s not about how big you are it’s all about making plays…which Glover proved he will do.
One player who showed potential while trying to learn a new position was transfer Sebastian LaRue who is adjusting to the move from wide receiver to D-back. Mike Leach is all about getting his best players on the field. With excellent depth at wide receiver it makes sense to experiment with LaRue playing in the defensive backfield. He just has too much athletic talent to keep on the sidelines. That said, the jury is out on whether or not LaRue will be playing defense next year.
Overall the Cougs looked good at times and over-matched at others. Given the level of experience, that’s what you’d expect at this point. And that’s what spring practice is all about. Guys are getting chances to show what they can do and learn what is needed to improve. Should there be continued progress through fall camp, Washington State has potential to take the next step at both linebacker and secondary play.