Washington State Football: Cougars Looking to Fill Holes On Defense

Cougars Looking to Fill Holes On Defense

3/24/14 in NCAAF   |   chris901   |   24 respect

Nov 16, 2013; Tucson, AZ, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach walks to the sideline during the second quarter against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. The Cougars beat the Wildcats 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY SportsTeams have to defend what they earn for a reason. Defense matters unless a team can score more than 50 points a game. Without it, a football team is not a well-oiled machine anymore. 

The Washington State Cougars have plenty of offense, putting up 31 points per game last season. They also enjoyed a 6-6 regular season, which qualified them for a bowl game, something the Cougars had not done for a decade. 

Yet, their offense wasn’t always what made them an improved team from years past. Their defense gave strong performances in many games last season, due in large part to the presence of Deone Bucannon and Damante Horton

However, both have graduated and will not return to the Cougar secondary in 2014. This leaves a gaping hole where there once was a major obstacle for opposing quarterbacks and receivers. Bucannon and Horton combined for 11 interceptions last season, and Horton returned three for touchdowns. Nolan Washington is also gone so the defensive backfield is quite empty for WSU. 

Now, the Cougars have cornerback Daquawn Brown, who had two picks last season while playing in all 13 games as a freshman. He showed plenty of potential last season, but recently was arrested for felony assault, which could lead to his dismissal from the team. 

If Brown stays, he will play with an older defensive front, but a relatively young secondary. David Bucannon, who will be a redshirt sophomore, might have to step in for his brother to help Brown deflect passes from opposing teams. 

Furthermore, the Cougars might have to employ more blitzes with the return of veterans Darryl Monroe, Kalafitoni Pole, and Cyrus Coen. WSU ranked near the bottom of the Pac-12 last season in pass rushing, totaling only 21 sacks. Teams in the upper third of the conference had double that amount. 

The Cougars need to discover their defensive identity in the spring, and if they choose to rely heavily on their secondary, they should expect to be frustrated at first. Very few can replace both the elder Bucannon and Horton in terms of leadership and performance, so the Cougars should start hunting soon for their next turnover specialists. 

The need for a strong secondary must have been glaring for Mike Leach and the coaching staff because the team recruited five cornerbacks and one safety for the upcoming season. If just two of those perform well in practice and earn the chance to play in the regular season, the team should be in good shape. However, just Brown and Bucannon are not enough to anchor the Cougars just yet, especially with Brown’s behavior problems and Bucannon’s lack of experience. 

If Wazzu neglects its defense and focuses too much on offense, the team will likely falter in 2014, reverting back to the old ways of surrendering large amounts of points and trying miserably to keep up on offense.

Notify me by email about comments that follow mine. Preview