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Washington State Football Defensive Preview
What happened to the Cougs?
The Cougars defense is led by Jeff Schmedding, who is in his first season as defensive coordinator in the Palouse.
Schmedding was most recently Boise State’s and Auburn’s defensive coordindator, following Bryan Harsin to the south before chaos ensued during that coaching administration
Washington State will primarily run a 4-2-5 defense, and rotate a bevy of defensive lineman
2022 Defense in Review
FEI Ratings: 37th on defense
gave up 22.9 points per game last season
when the Cougs were overwhelming teams with their pass rush they were shutting teams down
when they couldn’t they gave up 44 to Oregon (29 in the 4th quarter) and 51 to Washington
The 2022 Washington State defense was all about team speed and winning their matchups at the point of attack. Ron Stone was one of the unquestioned leaders on the team who can make plays both in the run and pass game. Brennan Jackson was and still is a good compliment outside of him, as the Cougars emulate the Buffalo Bills in how they rotate units of defensive linemen at a time. However, when they couldn’t get home it was a big struggle. Quarterbacks could routinely take the top off the defense, with only Chau Smith-Wade offering much of any resistance consistently. And that’s not necessarily to say that this defense was incapable of making plays, but when their big time players like Stone, Jackson, and Daiyan Henley weren’t in the backfield things were looking grim.
*this depth chart is from the start of the year, will reference an updated version below
The Provisional Starters
Most of the chart above still holds true, but Washington State has had to rearrange some players along the front seven and in the secondary .
Edge Ron Stone, DT David Gusta, DT Na’im Rodman/Nusi Malani, Edge Brennan Jackson
ILB Kyle Thornton, ILB Buddah Al-Qudah
CB Cam Lampkin, S Sam Lockett III, S Jaden Hicks, Nickel Jackson Lataimua, CB Javan Robinson/Jamorri Colson
Players to Watch
The aforementioned Ron Stone and Brennan Jackson will look to make Fernando Mendoza’s life very difficult Saturday. The Cal offensive line can’t have the random missed assignments its been having every now and then these past few weeks. While the offense for the Cougars has curtailed in recent weeks, the defense has also slipped by the wayside. After timely stops against Wisconsin and Oregon State, Arizona and Stanford were able to move the ball when necessary. The Wildcats bludgeoned the Cougars on homecoming in a 44-6 drubbing, and the defense could not stop Noah Fifita and Jonah Coleman.
The secondary has also caught a lot of flack in recent weeks, coming from the safety combination of Lockett III and Hicks, who haven’t been doing a great job in containing receivers and using their leverage to keep the quarterbacks from throwing elsewhere. A bright spot throughout the season (and I am unashamedly biased here having gone to high school with him alongside Malani) has been nickel back Jackson Lataimua who took over the starting role this year after only being a special teams contributor in recent seasons. Lataimua has been good in fitting run gaps, can thump a receiver over the middle, and has an interception and fumble recovery to his name. Look at the night and day approach from the Cougars from their highs against Wisconsin to the lows against Arizona.
How Cal can win this game
Simply put, Cal needs to physically assert their will consistently against Washington State this Saturday. They are on a rough five game slide that doesn’t look like it has a light at the end of the tunnel, and Cal cannot be the team that re-inspires this defense. Jaydn Ott and the running game should have an efficient day and Fernando Mendoza will have another stellar home start provided he gets the time in the pocket. The theme of this week is “be on schedule”. As Mendoza stated in his presser you don’t want to “tempo 3 and outs”, which is something I’ll be looking for when the Cal offense isn’t in a rhythm.
Can the Bears convert their 3rd and short/3rd and mediums? They struggled in Eugene and have had timely struggles in the same vein against USC and Oregon State on 4th down. Being able to keep the offense on the field will tire the Cougars out, keep Cam Ward off the field, and give the Bears a baseline for a rebound win for a team that desperately needs it.
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