Pre-season position primer – The defense

Sep 1, 2011, 4:49 PM

Don’t look now, but we’re a mere three days from the 2011 season.

Summer slipped away pretty quickly, and for those of us on the westside, it never really happened.

Because of this, I’m condensing my position break-downs and just putting all of the defense in one, complete, awesome, enthralling post (I really am my biggest fan).

Here we go:

In 2010, the defense was nothing short of miserable. Don’t take my word for it, talk to my good friends at Perhaps calling them my “good friends” is inappropriate seeing as just about everything on that site makes me want to drown myself, but I have to realize that it’s not their fault that WSU’s numbers have been horrible.

Without further ado, this is the bad news as far as the defense goes:

Total Defense: 118th

Rushing Defense: 115th

Passing Defense: 101st

Scoring Defense: 110th


BUT, there’s promise. Mostly it’s due to the fact that there are quite a few guys on this team who had decent seasons last year and are back (C.J. Mizell, Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Nolan Washington, Tyree Toomer, Daniel Simmons). Then, there are a couple who had really good seasons and are also back (Travis Long and Deone Bucannon). Finally, there are a handful of guys who are about to have a breakout year (Brandon Rankin, Anthony Laurenzi, Sekope Kaufusi).

Let’s hope that means the Cougs will be significantly better this season.

What worries me, though, is the fact that even if this squad is twice as good as last season, they would still rank in the 60s in all major defensive categories. That, realistically, translates to one of the worst-performing BCS conference schools in the nation. That also means that this team still won’t be able to stop the conference foes that have a pulse.

But we are three days prior to the start of the season, which means we are in prime time for crazy optimism, right?

Here are names to get to know on the d-line:

RE Travis Long 6-4, 256 Junior

Lenard Williams 6-2 250 Junior

Travis Long is arguably the best player not only on the defense, but the team itself. An All-Pac 10 Honorable Mention both last season while playing through injuries, and as a true freshman in 2009, Long is going to be a beast this season. Lenard Williams is a newcomer, transferring from Iowa Western Community College.


RT Kalafitoni Pole 6-1, 292 RS Freshman

Justin Clayton 6-4, 282 RS Sophomore

“Toni” Pole is one of those guys that Wulff and staff could’ve used last season, but held off to give him more time to mature. A fantastic athlete, Pole has impressed coaches since arriving on campus a year ago. Over the fall camp, he’s been so impressive he passed Clayton on the depth chart.

LT Anthony Laurenzi 6-3, 287 RS Junior

Brandon Rankin 6-5 286 RS Senior

This is one of those positions where you don’t know who will be the starter from game to game. Laurenzi has played extremely well in camp, but so has Rankin. Rankin only became eligible (academic issues) in the last few days, so perhaps that had something to do with his 2nd string status. Or maybe Laurenzi simply beat him out. Either way, you’ve got two nimble (for d-tackle standards), athletic and powerful tackles to interchange throughout any given game and that’s a luxury.

LE Adam Coerper 6-5, 252 RS Junior

Skylar Stormo 6-5, 260 RS Junior

Adam Coerper was the surprise of fall camp, jumping to the top of the depth chart. Skylar Stormo moved over from TE and has quickly made hay on the defensive end throughout the off-season. While the Right End will be the focus of the opposing offenses, Coerper and Stormo should be able to provide pressure. If they don’t, well, just look at years past for what happens in that case.

The linebackers are perhaps the most enticing group of the defense this season. Notice that I said “enticing.” The most “exciting” label has to go to the defensive backs, but we’ll get to them later.

So why are they “enticing?” Two reasons: CJ Mizell and Sekope Kaufusi.

These two guys are volcanoes awaiting to erupt. Save this article and come back to it in December. By then, they will be names that have caused opposing Offensive Coordinators numerous headaches. They are two of the type of uber-athletic, fast and powerful LBs that make football fans drool. I can’t wait to see these two go nuts this year. If their anchor, Alex Hoffman-Ellis, uses his speed appropriately and stays home and doesn’t over-pursue constantly like he did last year, we are in for the type of entertaining LB pursuit like we haven’t seen since Will Derting (while at OLB, of course).

What’s most interesting about these guys, though, is their depth. Mike Ledgerwood is a senior who is chock full of experience, but in the other two spots, it’s all about two TRUE freshman. Darryl Monroe and Chester Su’a are freak athletes, but hopefully they can come in and not get too overwhelmed. Mizell was a similar case last season – great athlete but caught out of position way too often.

SAM Sekope Kaufusi 6-4, 236 RS Sophomore

Darryl Monroe 6-1, 213 Freshman

Kaufusi started out as a DE, but switched to LB early last season as was impressive enough to get some good minutes by the season’s end. He had 22 tackles, and two for a loss.

MIKE C.J. Mizell 6-2, 227 Sophomore

Mike Ledgerwood 6-1, 232 Senior

C.J. Mizell was Paul Wulff’s big recruiting coup in the spring of 2010, and last season, he didn’t disappoint. It did take him a while to adjust to the speed of the college game (as well as the idea that practice is necessary), but once he overcame those issues, he was a force. Mizell ended the season with 57 tackles, six tackles-for-loss, two sacks and an interception. This season, he’s the unquestioned starter and has turned things around in the locker room as well, becoming a vocal leader.

WILL Alex Hoffman-Ellis 6-1, 231 RS Senior

Chester Su’a 6-2, 226 Freshman

Hoffman-Ellis is the most experienced player of the bunch and he’ll be counted on to keep the unit grounded. Unfortunately, his own exuberance has been his main problem in the last couple of seasons, frequently getting caught out of position. Still, he was second on the team in tackles last season with 81, along with five tackles-for-loss, two interceptions and two sacks. Hopefully, with another year of seasoning under his belt he can use his speed to his advantage.

The Defensive Backs are without a doubt the most exciting squad on this team. Deone Bucannon is a highlight reel all by himself. With the loss of Aire Justin, the squad is still very young and depth is always an issue.

RCB Damante Horton 5-10, 174 Sophomore

Spencer Waseem 5-9 167 Freshman

Horton played a limited role last season, but got in to 7 games and was able to chalk up 15 tackles.

SS Deone Bucannon 6-1, 190 Sophomore

Anthony Carpenter 6-0 191 RS Sophomore

Deone Bucannon was the surprise of last season when he became the team’s leading tackler, racking up 84 tackles, intercepting two passes and recovering two fumbles. His thunderous hits were a thing of beauty.

FS Tyree Toomer 5-11 199 RS Junior

Casey Locker 5-11, 198 RS Sophomore

Toomer played a big role last season, netting 68 tackles and a couple of sacks.

LCB Daniel Simmons 5-10, 193 RS Junior

Nolan Washington 5-11, 184 RS Sophomore

Simmons appeared in nine games last season and had 30 tackles. In the year prior, he played in six games before breaking his leg at Arizona State.

Go Cougs!



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