New defense with high expectations

WSU ranked 94th in the country in total defense last season



Defensive veterans Jahad Woods, George Hicks III, and Will Rodger III will return for the 2020-21 season.

KURIA POUNDS, Evergreen reporter

The defense for the Cougars has been suspect for the past few seasons, with the interior allowing plenty of rushing yards per game in 2018 and allowing 452.5 total yards of offense each game last season.

This year, however, the talk around camp is how the defense has drastically improved throughout the off-season, as they get ready for their season opener on Saturday against Oregon State University.

WSU will be without Lamonte McDougle, redshirt junior transfer defensive linemen, because he opted out of the season. Without his presence, the focus of the rebuild on defense is on the interior line.

Theo Lawson of the Spokesman-Review tweeted both McDougle and Skyler Thomas, redshirt senior defensive back, who both entered the transfer portal and are not listed on the 2020 football roster.

In terms of the secondary from last year to this year, there is a resurgence of talent, and the unit is more connected overall.

During the second scrimmage for WSU, head coach Nick Rolovich and defensive coordinator Jake Dickert are more raved about how the defense really stepped up their game from the first scrimmage.

The defense forced the quarterbacks to struggle, especially redshirt sophomore Cammon Cooper, who threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Jaylen Watson, redshirt junior defensive back.

The current depth chart for the Cougars lists Watson, redshirt senior Daniel Isom, redshirt sophomore Tyrese Ross, senior George Hicks III and redshirt junior Armani Marsh as the starters in the secondary, which come as no surprise.

When it comes to the linebacker core, the tandem of redshirt seniors Jahad Woods and Justus Rogers are the “veterans” of the defense, being with the Cougars for multiple years combined.

Woods finished second in the Pac-12 last year in tackles per game with almost 11. He seems to be on a mission to finish first this year and be the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, something a Coug has not done since 1994.

A.J. Cooper, WSU EDGE’s coach, said he likes redshirt junior EDGE Willie Taylor III’s speed in terms of getting to the quarterback.

Redshirt sophomore Brennan Jackson and senior Will Rodgers III are listed as the starters for the EDGE position for WSU with Taylor III or redshirt sophomore Ron Stone Jr. listed as options as well.

The big name on the interior defensive line for WSU is redshirt junior Dallas Hobbs, and how the impact of no McDougle will force Hobbs to step up in the interior line.

Hobbs stood out as a top tackle during training camp and the scrimmages. Without McDougle, it looks like Hobbs is now the veteran leader of the interior line, which has been suspected recently.

The resurgence of the defense is something most Cougar fans are waiting for this year after a disappointing season last year, finishing second-to-last in the Pac-12.

The Cougars will open up their 2020 season against the Oregon State Beavers at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Corvallis, Oregon. With the hype surrounding defense coming into this game, I would expect the defense to be clicking on all cylinders and stopping the Beavers as much as they can.