In the second part of this 8-part series I will take a look at the defensive line for the Washington State Cougars. Each day counting down to the kickoff of the season I will release one offense and one defensive positional breakdown. Check here for the running back breakdown.
The defensive line depth chart is no surprise and has been expected to be the way it is all off-season. The Cougars will be returning 2 of their 3 defensive lineman in Toni Pole and Xavier Cooper with the only loss being Ioane Gauta. The good thing with Cooper returning is that they will be bringing back their sack leader, he had 5 sacks last season.
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Last season the Cougars had Cooper at defensive end, Pole at tackle, and Gauta at nose tackle. This season we will see Pole at nose tackle, Cooper at tackle, and Destiny Vaeao (who played Buck last season) at defensive end. I will get more into the linebacker group later in this series.
With Cooper, Pole, and Vaeao all returning, the Cougars defensive line should be in a great position for a great season. Last year the Cougars gave up an average of 4.47 yards per attempt on the ground and they will look to bring that number down and slow the opposing offense down.
Backing up Cooper, the Cougars will have Darryl Paulo. Paulo, who is a redshirt Junior, has seen the field plenty and it will definitely help out the Cougars having that experience behind Cooper.
Backing up Pole at the nose tackle position will be Robert Barber who is the redshirt Sophomore and he will be able to back up both Cooper and Vaeao as well.
Lyman Faoliu will be the main backup for Vaeao and will help out the Cougars as well. It would not be a big surprise to see Vaeao play a little bit of Buck making Faoliu play with the one’s. Vaeao started last season at Buck but has since moved to defensive end. Faulio, who is a senior, has been around the system long enough to know and understand more than just his one position.
All of the returning defensive lineman are in the top 10 of tackles for a loss with Cooper leading the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss. Pole has 4 tackles for a loss while Paulo and Vaeao have 3.5 a piece. Cooper led the team in quarterback hurries with 4 and was tied for second with most forced fumbles on the team with 2. Cooper also had 1 fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown against Oregon.
The Cougar defensive line is going to look a lot like it did last year and has the possibility of having some freshman come up if they prove themselves during the season. With another year and another off-season under their belt the defensive line should really help out the team in making their way to make it to the top of the PAC-12.
The defensive line and the rest of the Cougars look to start that trip to the top of the PAC-12 North on Thursday the 28th when the Cougars take on Rutgers at Century Link Field in Seattle, WA.