The Cougars shifted personnel around on the defensive line to account for Robert Barber's absence last week. This week, the changes have been made official and entered into the newest depth chart.
This week, Washington State appears to be gearing up for life without Robert Barber.
With the big starting nose tackle suspended through July 2017, the Cougars have had to tweak with their defensive line configuration. We saw the first sign of these changes last week, when the Cougs re-shuffled the defensive line against Oregon State and gave freshman Derek Moore his first career start at end.
On Tuesday morning, the Cougars’ depth chart listed Dan Ekuale as the starting nose tackle ahead of Ngala Tapa. Garrett McBroom is the starter at tackle, with Kingston Fernandez backing him up.
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Moore is listed as Hercules Mata’afa’s backup at end.
The Cougars used several different defensive line configurations against the Beavers last week, with Moore occasionally lining up alongside Mata’afa and Ekuale.
With Logan Tago still suspended, Dylan Hanser and Nnamdi Oguayo will likely take most of the reps at rush linebacker though Frankie Luvu earned the start at that position last week.
The Cougars’ defense has made steady progress under second-year coordinator Alex Grinch, but it’s worth nothing that they’re still a very young squad. Ten defensive players earned their first career starts this season, and three true freshmen have played on defense, including Jalen Thompson, who has started every game, and Moore, who started his first college game last week.
Also, Parker Henry, who has been dealing with an unspecified injury for the last two weeks, was back in the defense again at nickelback last week.
Henry started the first five games at nickelback, but the Cougars have since moved Shalom Luani to that spot — in part because he brings some extra speed to the equation, and in part because Henry has been nicked up.
The Cougars appear to be phasing Henry back into things though. He played on special teams at Arizona State, and while he did not start against the Beavers, he played at nickelback and recorded four tackles.
WSU has allowed 384.2 yards per game this year on defense, an improvement from the 416.6 yards per game it allowed last season. The Cougars currently have the Pac-12’s No. 1 rushing defense. They’ve held opponents to an average of 113.9 rush yards per game and limited opposing backs to 3.9 yards per carry in Pac-12 play this season.