Daiyan Henley is already one of the best defensive Cougs of all time

Henley has proven his talent to be great



WSU linebacker Daiyan Henley rushes Arizona State quarterback Trenton Bourguet during an NCAA football game, Nov. 12.

TREVOR JUNT, Evergreen deputy sports editor

Daiyan Henley is one of the best defensive players Washington State University has ever seen.

He certainly is not the greatest defensive player at WSU all-time. Greatest would imply legacy and with Henley’s single year in Pullman, it is clear to see that this does not work when discussing him.

The greatest defensive player of all time at WSU is Mel Hein, who was a linebacker and center in the 1930s. He went on to play for 15 years in the NFL and is the only center to ever win NFL MVP. Hein was drafted in the inaugural NFL Draft and is a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Henley is one of the most talented and best defensive players in the history of the school. This is what we are talking about. Talented with a great year. Henley has stood out all season. He is top two on the team in just about every defensive category.

He leads the team in total tackles by 37 with 102 to his name. Trailing him at second is safety Jaden Hicks with 65. Henley is also second on the team in sacks with four, just behind Brennan Jackson who currently has five.

WSU linebacker Daiyan Henley lunges for Arizona State running back Xazavian Valladay during an NCAA football game, Nov. 12.

He is tied for second in interceptions with one on the season as Chau Smith-Wade has two. He is tied for second in forced fumbles with two on the season just behind Francisco Mauigoa’s three. Henley leads the team in fumble recoveries at two.

Leading in virtually every defensive statistical category, Henley has proven his worth on the field. But he is also a great locker room presence to have. He is a vocal leader and helps push the defense forward. WSU head coach Jake Dickert said that Henley is one of the best linebackers in the whole country.

“Daiyan’s growing daily, you know, and the challenges of each week and the preparation and what it takes, and he’s working to be a professional. I think those things are really important but man, what a playmaker he’s been,” Dickert said. “I think that’s his best trait. When he’s out there he’s confident and has his eyes right. I don’t think there’s many better in the whole country.”

This Cougar defense has looked incredible all season, they look like the best defense to be at WSU since the “Palouse Posse” who was around from 1992-94. The 1994 season is when that team hit its peak and ended very similarly to how the 2022 season might end, they ended 8-4 and then held Baylor to three points in the Alamo Bowl to win 10-3.

Linebacker Mark Fields lead the “Palouse Posse.” He had a different time at WSU than Henley as he was there for four years, but similarly, he was a highly touted draft prospect who went 13th overall to the Saints in the 1995 NFL Draft.

Fields was the on-field and off-field leader of the “Palouse Posse” like how Henley is. He led the team in most statistical categories just like how Henley leads. The output of numbers might be on Henley’s side if he continues to play like this for the rest of the season.

WSU linebacker Daiyan Henley celebrates after making a play during an NCAA football game against Colorado State, Sep. 17.

The success of the team’s shutdown defense is attributed a lot to Henley as he has been playing better than he ever has. National media is covering him and Mel Kiper, an NFL draft analyst, actually had Henley ranked No. 23 on his big board earlier this season.

Henley has proven himself to be top-tier talent at WSU and looks like an incredible draft target for NFL teams. He is one of the best defensive Cougs of all time and will be considered so for years to come.