#72 Washington State 2018 Football Preview

Washington State Cougars
Overall Rank: #72
#9 Pac-12
 Washington State Logo
Washington State had a very successful 2017 season. They went 6-3 in Pac-12 play and won eight games overall. The Cougars ended with a couple big losses against rival Washington and Michigan State in the Holiday Bowl and that is not a great way to acquire momentum heading into the 2018 season, especially on a team that has a lot of holes to fill.
2017 Record: 8-5, 6-3
2017 Bowl: Holiday Bowl vs. Michigan State (L 17-42)
Coach: Mike Leach (38-38 at Washington State, 122-81 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: None
Defensive Coordinator: Tracey Claeys
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: James Williams, RB, 395 yards
Passing: None
Receiving: Renard Bell, WR, 538 yards
Tackles: Jalen Thompson, S, 73
Sacks: Nnamdi Oguayo, DE, 4.0
Interceptions: Jalen Thompson, S, 4
Other Key Returnees: WR Kyle Sweet, OL Andre Dillard, LB Jahad Woods. LB Peyton Pellur, CB Sean Harper
Key Losses: RB Jamal Morrow, QB Luke Falk, WR Tavares Martin, WR Isaiah Johnson, OL Cody O’Connell, OL Cole Madison, DE Hercules Mata’afa, LB Frankie Luvu, K Erik Powell
As usual, WSU boasted one of the top passing offenses in the country last year. During his senior season Luke Falk threw for 3,593 yards and 30 touchdowns. He ended his collegiate career as the Pac-12 career leader in yardage and touchdowns. For the first time in a long time, there are huge questions at quarterback. No returning quarterback has taken a snap with the Cougars. Juniors Trey Tinsley and Anthony Gordon and freshman Cammon Cooper came out of the spring as the most likely candidates to take over the starting job. However, Gardner Minshew, a graduate transfer from East Carolina, is by far the most experienced signal caller on the roster. Kyle Sweet and Renard Bell will have to emerge as consistent wide receivers. Those two combined to catch 98 passes for 1,071 yards so there is certainly some experience. Dezmon Patmon and Jamire Calvin were involved in the offense last season as well and should play larger roles in 2018. Shifty running back James Williams returns after rushing for 395 yards and catching 71 passes for 482 yards.
Washington State boasted the second best defense in the Pac-12 last year, allowing just 323.3 yards per game. Keeping that up will be tough though. Losing Hercules Mata’afa leaves a lot of pressure on defensive end Nnamdi Oguayo. He recorded 4.0 sacks last season, but not having Mata’afa on the other end leaves some questions. There is a slew of talent at linebacker, led by Peyton Pueller, who missed most of last season with an injury. Sophomore Jahad Woods stepped up in Pueller’s absence and now there is a massive amount of depth and talent at middle linebacker. The secondary will be led by Jalen Thompson, a junior safety who led the team with 73 tackles in 2017. The unit lacks depth and consistency and could be in trouble if the front three has difficulty getting to the quarterback.
The Bottom Line:
Washington State may need the defense to hold up the offense early in the season. Non-conference games against Wyoming, San Jose State and Eastern Washington should give the Cougars an opportunity to settle on a new quarterback and work on the issues on both sides of the ball. Regardless, Washington State will not be as efficient and effective on offense and the defense may not be able to cover for it.
Projected Bowl: None
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 68.0 (128th in nation, 12th in conference)
Passing Offense: 366.8 (2, 1)
Total Offense: 434.8 (33, 5)
Scoring Offense: 30.3 (50, 8)
Rushing Defense: 152.4 (47, 4)
Pass Defense: 170.9 (9, 1)
Total Defense: 323.3 (16, 2)
Scoring Defense: 25.8 (58, 4)
Turnover Margin: -0.23 (85, 10)
Sacks: 2.85 (21, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 3.38 (124, 12)

Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#248 Drue Jackson