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Washington State Position Previews - Defense

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An advance look at Cyler's first Apple Cup match up.

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Line

The front end of WSU's 3-4: DE Destiny Vaeao (Jr., 6-4, 295), NT Kalifitoni Pole (Sr., 6-1, 301), T Xavier Cooper (Jr., 6-4, 299).

Pretty solid size all around. Cooper has been the most explosive of the three, totaling a team-high 8.5 TFL and 5.0 sacks. Darryl Paulo (Jr., 6-2, 261) backs up Vaeao. He has managed an impressive 7.0 TFL and 2.0 sacks despite rotating in off the bench.

Linebackers

BUCK Kache Palacio (Jr, 6-2, 227), SAM Cyrus Coen (Sr., 6-0, 208), MIKE Peyton Pelluer (RSFr., 6-0, 224), WILL Jeremiah Allison (Jr., 6-2, 224).

Palacio leads the team in sacks (6.5 to go with 50 tackles) as a BUCK is supposed to.

Allison is in the discussion for the team's defensive MVP with 73 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, and 4.5 sacks. Coen has totaled 55 tackles and Pelluer, who earned a starting spot about a month ago, has chipped in 31.

Darryl Monroe (Jr., 6-1, 235) and Ivan McLennan (Jr., 6-4, 236) are the primary contributors off the bench.

This front seven has not been great, but it has been sneaky good.

Against the run, WSU has held opponents to 3.64 yards per carry (3rd best in the Pac-12). However, opponents have only attempted 261 rushes, the lowest number in the conference.

Through eight conference games, WSU has actually recorded only one fewer sack than Washington (24 compared to 25 for UW)! In tackles for loss, the Cougs are actually one up on the Huskies, 54 to 53 (7th and 8th).

Despite a lack of name recognition or individual star power and a fairly undersized linebacking corps, this front seven has disrupted offenses at at least a league average level.

Defensive Backs

CB Daquawn Brown (So., 5-11, 175), CB Marcellus Pippins (Fr., 5-10, 163), FS Darius Lemora (RSFr., 5-11, 182), SS Taylor Taliulu (Jr., 5-11, 206).

Brown had been a consistent starter until missing last week's contest. He is once again listed atop the depth chart. Pippins is a true freshman that started his first game of the season last week in the loss to ASU.

Lemora has been mostly solid at free safety, starting nine out of eleven contests, while Taliulu missed three games in the middle of the season. Lemora has recorded 60 tackles to Tailulu's 57.

Strangely enough, Brown leads the entire team in tackles with 75. It is not at all ideal for a corner to lead your team in that category. Kudos to him for the hustle, but to that says he is probably allowing too many completions, and/or his teammates are missing a lot of tackles. Then again, the guy has managed 5.0 tackles for loss, so perhaps I'm just not giving him enough credit.

Pippins looks to be pretty severely undersized at 163 and he will be starting only his second college game, so I would hope to see Washington pick on him a little bit.

There is no kind way to put this: the Cougs have been hot garbage against the pass. I'm not just talking about the volume numbers that may or may not be swollen by the offense's focus on the run. Sure, WSU is 10th in the conference with 331 passing yards per conference game, but they are also dead last with 9.2 yards per attempt. Strangely, opponents have only attempted 289 passes in conference play (3rd lowest).

Cal has surrendered a higher completion %, more total yards, and more touchdown passes. However, WSU has allowed 28 TDs (tied for 2nd worst) while failing to nab a single interception. They have only two total on the year, both in non-conference play.

Overall

I'm moderately confident that the offense will perform well in this game.

On paper, WSU is weak against the pass and pretty good against the run. This doesn't seem to jive with Washington's run-heavy, pass-iffy approach. In reality, WSU is not as formidable a run defense as the stats might suggest, and Washington passing game has shown signs of improvement over the past two weeks against defenses that roughly compare with WSU's.

Cyler Miles is playing well enough at this point to get the job done against a defense yielding over nine yards per passing attempt. Mickens is fresh off his biggest game of the season, Dante Pettis is beginning to merge as a steady 2nd target, and Perkins has become a go-to target on 3rd down.

Of course, the efficient Cyler that has shown up the past two weeks (if you forget about his fumbling against Arizona...) is made possible by a successful run game.

Since Shaq returned to linebacker full time a few weeks ago, the hot halfback has suddenly been Dwayne Washington despite his 3rd string status at times midway through the season. Over the past two weeks, he has carried the ball 33 times for 248 rushing yards and 3 TDs. Lavon Coleman and Cooper will spell him pretty frequently.

With Criste at center and Tanigawa moved back to guard, the offensive line paved the way for Dwayne's big day and only allowed one sack. If they can maintain that steady level of play and limit the chaos (for the sake of Cyler's hands), I see Washington scoring 30+ points.

How do you folks see Washington's offense performing out in the cold, wild Palouse?