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30-Day Countdown, Day 30: Draft a Pac-12 Defensive Player

Which player would you grab from another Pac-12 school to add to the Husky defense?

Washington State v Stanford Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

It’s finally here! The return of the 30-Day Countdown!

That means, you guessed it, we’re just 30 days away from the start of the 2023 Husky Football season. And it is shaping up to be one of the most highly anticipated seasons in at least a half decade.

For those of you that are new around here, every season we count down to the start of the season opener over the course of the month that generally corresponds to fall camp. Even though fall camp happens in August which is in summer. Makes sense.

Every day we’ll be coming at you with a topic that asks some type of question and we get the answer from all of you readers. At the bottom of most (a few exceptions) there will be a poll question for you to fill out. Then at the end of the season we’ll get to look back at how accurate your guesses turned out to be.

Today we start out with the hypothetical question that has become less and less hypothetical over recent years. If you could take a defensive player off another Pac-12 team’s roster and add them to this Husky lineup, who would you take?

In the transfer portal era this happens regularly although more for teams like USC who raided 3 starters off of Arizona’s team. I do have a couple of rules to follow for this exercise (and can’t wait to have people yell at me in the comments having not ready the rules).

  1. The player has to have been on their same team last year. If they already moved this offseason in the portal then we’re just talking about UW losing a recruiting battle, not a new discussion.
  2. The player can’t have made 1st or 2nd team all-Pac-12 last season. It’s not as much fun to just name the players who led the conference in tackles, sacks, and interceptions and call it a day. Let’s get a little creative.

CB Ryan Cooper Jr., Oregon State

The number one issue with last season’s Husky defense was the inability to stop the passing game. More specifically, it was that no Washington defender seemed to be able to get close enough to the receiver to make a play on the ball while it was still in the air. Enter Cooper who was one of the best in the conference at it.

Last year was Cooper’s first in the Pac-12 after entering Corvallis via the College of San Mateo. Despite that and despite playing in a loaded secondary, he stepped right in starting 9 games and wracking up 3 interceptions plus 9 more pass breakups per Pro Football Focus. That total led the Pac-12.

Washington looks to have one secure starting corner spot locked down with incoming Oklahoma State transfer Jabbar Muhammad but Washington could use another proven body at that position. Elijah Jackson will hopefully stay healthy and UW is hoping that incoming JUCO transfer Thad Dixon has a season like Cooper did last year. So why not just draft Cooper himself?

USC v Oregon State Photo by Ali Gradischer/Getty Images

EDGE David Bailey, Stanford

At first glance Washington appears set on the edge with Bralen Trice and Zion Tupoula-Fetui. Even before you look any further though, there’s room for improvement. ZTF has yet to look the absolute monster he was in 2020 before his Achilles injury and having another starting caliber player at that spot would be nice. Then when you do look beyond the projected starters you see a giant void of unproven guys. This spot absolutely needs another impact player.

Enter Bailey who was an elite high four-star recruit in the class of 2022. He played like it starting 9 games and finishing with 36 tackles, 3 sacks, and 28 total QB pressures per PFF as a true freshman. If you put him on the opposite side of Trice or ZTF it’s scary to think what he could do rushing the passer. If you’re looking to buy stock on a player you better start now with Bailey because the price is going to shoot way up this season since Bailey has gotten his feet wet in college.

DL Brett Johnson, California

Admittedly, last year was a down year on the interior defensive line in the Pac-12. Then almost every impact player either graduated or declared for the draft. It’s kind of slim pickings if you’re looking for someone who meets the criteria for eligibility. So why not swing for the fences a bit?

Johnson missed the last 2 seasons due to injury but was back healthy in the spring. He started 12 games for Cal between the 2019 and shortened 2020 seasons putting up 42 tackles with 3 sacks. Perhaps most importantly he only missed 3 tackles. If he is able to stay healthy he could provide an impact as one of the only DL in the conference to never play a season with a PFF grade below 71 (60 is average).

Right now Washington feels pretty good with Tuli Letuligasenoa but alongside him there are still only players with potential. Faatui Tuitele largely struggled last year as the other starter and none of Ulumoo Ale, Jacob Bandes, and Jayvon Parker have truly broken out. Although it looks like Ale has a chance to surpass Tuitele on the depth chart. Adding another impact player on the interior would be a huge boon.

NCAA Football: Stanford at California Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

S Cole Bishop, Utah

Washington technically has 2 returning starters at the safety spot as Asa Turner is back and Dom Hampton was moved from the Husky to a more traditional safety role in the spring. Still, the depth behind them is lacking and it certainly doesn’t hurt to potentially upgrade on the back end of the defense.

Cole Bishop has already started 20 games for the Utes in just 2 seasons in college with Utah winning the Pac-12 title game both seasons. He has had a Taylor Rapp-like impact on the Utes secondary. Bishop is absolutely devastating when used to blitz from a spot the quarterback isn’t expecting. On 60 pass rush attempts last year he had 21 pressures and 2 sacks. Overall, he had 79 tackles and an interception as well.

If Bishop were on this roster he’d make an ideal Husky (the position, not the mascot; okay maybe the mascot too, I haven’t seen his dog impression) with his ability to dominate in both the run and pass game close to the line of scrimmage. I normally also try to avoid guys on the preseason media Pac-12 team and Bishop made that list but I actually wrote this before that got announced so I’m going to go ahead and leave Bishop as an option.


Which defensive player would you draft off a fellow Pac-12 team’s roster?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    CB Ryan Cooper Jr., Oregon State
    (54 votes)
  • 7%
    EDGE David Bailey, Stanford
    (9 votes)
  • 9%
    DL Brett Johnson, California
    (11 votes)
  • 37%
    S Cole Bishop, Utah
    (44 votes)
118 votes total Vote Now