The Washington State Cougars are looking to turn around their fortunes after a dismal run of failure over the last several years with the help of new head coach Mike Leach. Part of that turnaround will be fixing a defense that ranked 95th last season in points allowed, surrendering 31.8 points per game. That turnaround will now have to happen without a key cog in the depth of the defensive line as defensive tackle Anthony Laurenzi has been dismissed from the team.
Last Sunday, Laurenzi was arrested on suspicion of third-degree theft at a Pullman area Walmart according to the Pullman police department when, according to reports, he was caught lifting a pair of headphones from the store. In Mike Leach’s book, Swing Your Sword, he lists the three cardinal rules that result in a player’s dismissal: drugs, violence against women, and stealing. It looks like the Palouse Pirate is a man of his word. Laurenzi makes the third returning starter that Leach has dismissed from the team since arriving in Pullman, joining linebackers Sekope Kaufusi and C.J. Mizell who were both asked to leave the team earlier in the spring.
Laurenzi represented WSU’s most experienced defensive lineman for 2012. Without him, the Cougars will look to some less experienced talent to step up in the middle of their defense. At nose tackle, WSU will turn to Kalafitoni Pole and Ioane Gauta, a junior college transfer, to take the majority of the snaps in the 3-4 defensive scheme. The departing Laurenzi was listed second on the depth chart at nose tackle coming out of spring practices behind Pole. When the Cougars go to a 4-3, Xavier Cooper will start at the right tackle spot while the Cougars will look to replace Laurenzi, who was slotted to start at the left tackle.
The Cougars will also have the talents of Steven Hoffart and Lenard Williams returning to help them. A dark horse in the race for playing time at the nose tackle position, however, may be Robert Barber, a raw but high potential defensive lineman from American Samoa who arrived in Pullman this June. The WSU coaches will look to find the right combination of bodies to help improve a defense that allowed 30 points or more in seven of their games, including four games where they gave up at least 40.
As for Laurenzi, he’s now forced to try and find a new team with the college football season just a month away. Whoever picks him up will get a three-year starter who appeared in every game for WSU since 2009. Last season, Laurenzi set a career-high with 25 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, and was named a team captain. Unfortunately for Laurenzi, and for the Cougar defensive line, he wasn’t able to stay out of trouble and by breaking one of his new coach’s cardinal rules, he was forced to walk the plank.
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