The most improvement for the Washington State Cougars will need to take place on the defensive side of the ball. Last season, the defense gave up at least 38 points in five of their eight losses which includes a 43-28 loss at Autzen Stadium against the Oregon Ducks.
Unlike the offense, the defense for WSU will be losing a few key players in 2012, Alex Hoffman-Ellis and C.J. Mizell (both linebackers).
Alex Hoffman-Ellis departed from the Cougars as a redshirt senior. Last season, Hoffman-Ellis lead the team with 88 total tackles. He also had eleven tackles for loss, two sacks, and one interception. Hoffman-Ellis is the biggest loss to the team’s defense going into the 2012 season. He was the senior leader of the linebacker core and was one of the best on the team at making tackles in the backfield.
On the other hand, C.J. Mizell will leave WSU after only one full season with the team in 2011. Mizell was dismissed from the football team after being arrested for assault back in February. Mizell was a fan favorite as he had 56 total tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. Some may say that Mizell is the biggest loss for the Washington State defense, but it is hard to put his absence ahead of Hoffman-Ellis. However, a case could be made for both Mizell and Hoffman-Ellis.
Looking forward to the 2012 season, the Cougars have much to be excited about on the defensive side of the ball. One of the senior leaders in 2012 will be defensive end, Travis Long. Long was the team leader in sacks with four and tackles for loss with . Long also had success in disrupting the passing game for opposing teams in 2011 with three broken up passes, crediting his 6-foot-4-inch frame.
Another key defensive player for Washington State this season will be Damante Horton. In 2011 as a sophomore cornerback, Horton was a dominate player in defending the pass. Horton lead the team with four interceptions and racked up 76 interception return yards. He also broke up three passes and forced two fumbles in 2011. Horton will definitely need to lead the secondary for the team if they want to do anything in the Pac-12 this season.
Here are some of the top passing offenses Washington State will face this year in the Pac-12:
- Week 5 – Oregon Ducks – 522.8 passing yards in 2011
- Week 7 – California – 401.5 passing yards in 2011
- Week 9 – Stanford – 489.3 passing yards in 2011
- Week 12 – Arizona State – 445.8 passing yards in 2011
- Week 13 – Washington – 409.8 passing yards in 2011
For more stories on Washington State, check out “All Coug’d Up!”.
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