The Washington State Cougars suffered through a rocky inaugural season under Mike Leach in 2012. Their defense, in particular, looked terrible for long stretches as they gave up explosive play after explosive play. They should be able to avoid that same predicament in 2013 as the defense looks to make major improvements across the board and they will be led by the emergence of Darryl Monroe at linebacker.
During his freshman season, Monroe stepped up in a major way and finished second on the team with 80 tackles, including 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. This offseason, Monroe has become a more vocal leader of the defensive unit and has embraced his role as the anchor in the middle for 2013. In his sophomore season, Monroe will have to show that he can shoulder the responsibility of leadership while improving his ability to create negative plays for opposing offenses.
He will be helped out by a defensive front seven that should be much improved all around thanks to the experience gained in 2012 and some much needed depth being added at every position. The Cougars will be able to field a solid two-deep depth chart across the board, with some excellent playmakers getting worked into the rotation. That should help WSU play more straight-up defense rather than manufacturing pressure by blitzing every down and opening themselves up to those big plays which killed them last season.
At the center of all of it sits Darryl Monroe, ready to take his place as a defensive leader for Washington State. If he is able to take his game to the next level and add more disruptiveness to his skillset, he might even become one of the better linebackers in the entire Pac 12.