When I watch the Washington State defense, it looks uncannily familiar. The difference is that no one expected Washington State’s defense to be one of the best in the conference. Like many of Cal’s opponents, Washington State also runs a 4-2-5 defense, so this should probably look familiar by now.
The biggest issue with this defense: missed tackles. Unfortunately, they are comparable to Cal in the missed tackles department, but I think most of their missed tackles are in the secondary (as opposed to their linebackers, although they only have 2 linebackers anyway), especially in run support when a running back gets to the second level.
As a result of their defensive struggles, this article will probably be shorter than most of my other articles, since there’s far less to highlight here.
The defensive line is probably the strength of this defense, and defensive end Ron Stone Jr. is probably the star of this defense - his dad was an NFL All-Pro. Ron Stone Jr.’s claim to fame is that he once beat Penei Sewell for a sack on Justin Herbert. He plays fast, and he is probably the best playmaker on the defense.
He’s got power. Here he bull rushes the guard to get the sack:
He’s also got a nose for the football:
If there is one positive thing I could say about this defense, it is that they try to swing momentum by looking for the big defensive play. Stone Jr. is definitely a difference-maker on the defensive line:
I have also been impressed with the play of freshman defensive end Andrew Edson, who is already making an impact:
I don’t want to make any wild predictions, but if a true freshman is already having an impact, he’s probably going to grow into a pretty good player.
Washington State has a pair of very experienced linebackers in Jahad Woods and Justus Rogers. Jahad Woods has been a mainstay of the linebacker corps for a while now. He is pretty good - not the biggest guy but he does have good instincts. One of his weaknesses is that he’s sometimes too eager to get into the backfield, often clearing a lane for the running back as Woods overpursues the quarterback for a sack. Jahad Woods is decent in pass coverage, but Justus Rogers is probably a better as a pass rusher. Both linebackers are known for laying big hits on opposing quarterbacks when they can shed blocks.
Honestly, the secondary is not very good, and I can’t find a way to put that nicely. They struggle in run support and miss a ton of tackles. They’re also not great in coverage, as opposing receivers frequently find themselves open against them.
CB Derrick Langford is decent and probably their best corner. He has some good moments:
My favorite defensive back on Wazzu is actually a backup, the cornerback Chau Wade-Smith. I’m guessing he’s not the best corner in practice because he doesn’t see enough snaps, but I think he is the defensive back with the highest ceiling. I think he could grow to become a very good cover corner:
Due to some tackling issues Wazzu has, they’ll often try to compensate by trying to force fumbles. They’re actually tied for 2nd in the FBS with 6 fumbles recovered through 4 games. The nickelback Armani Marsh is good in coverage, but misses a lot of tackles. But again, who cares if you miss a tackle so long as you sometimes punch the ball out?:
I have trouble finding positive moments for the rest of the defensive backs. George Hicks is beaten on routes more often than not. Safety Daniel Isom struggles the most in coverage, and I couldn’t even tell you how many clips I have of Daniel Isom on the wrong end of other players’ offensive highlights. Isom isn’t terrible at tackling, but he sticks out as being on the wrong end of some very notable truckings by opposing running backs (OSU’s Jermar Jefferson, Oregon’s CJ Verdell, etc).
Although I’m sure the Cal defense will suffer the occasional lapse against the Wazzu offense, the Cal offense should have no problem against the Wazzu defense. Good-Garbers should torch the Wazzu secondary, and Garbers should be mobile enough to avoid the Wazzu pass rush. Just like I said in my Sacramento State previews; if Cal’s offense struggles against Wazzu, it’s time to sound the alarm. Cal should be able to take care of business here.