What You Need To Know About The Washington State Defense
– Alex Grinch did a wonderful job with the Wazzu defense over the last few years, but former Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys should be even better. The longtime assistant under Jerry Kill is a star of a D coordinator, with a smart, tough style against the run to go along with strong play out of the secondary. His defenses don’t exactly bring the house when it comes to applying pressure – the sack total will go down – but the run defense will be terrific.
– Losing DT Hercules Mata’afa hurts. and not having linemate Daniel Ekuale back in the middle is a problem, too. Three starers are done from a line that helped the Cougars led the Pac-12 in tackles for loss and was terrific at getting to the quarterback. DE Nnamdi Oguayo can get behind the line, but the line will be a work in progress.
– Three of the top five tacklers are gone, but S Jalen Thompson is back after leading the team with 73 stops, and Jahad Woods is a strong young linebacker who should be in the hunt for all-conference recognition coming off a solid 64-stop season.
Led by Thompson, the secondary that led the Pac-12 in pass defense is the strength with three starters returning and the best depth on the D. Woods is an undersized baller at one outside spot, and Justus Rogers should be a statistical star now that the gig in the middle is all his.
Biggest Key To The Washington State Defense
Keep the pressure on. That’s not going to be easy without Mata’afa around to dominate behind the line, but after coming up with 31 more tackles for loss than in 2016 while almost doubling the sack total, the plays in the backfield have to be there. They’re going to have to be manufactured without any sure-thing pass rushing stars up front, but it has to occasionally be there.