Off we go with another round. …
Q: What position do you think will be most improved next season?
A: On paper, the area that looks like it has the best combination of returning vets, young players on the way up, and talented newcomers, is the secondary — I detailed the players at that spot in the defensive back position overview the other day. So I’ll go with that spot.
All positions work together, so it’s not as easy as just saying it’s all on the secondary to improve the pass defense. As coaches like to say, the best defense is a pass rush — even the best DBs can only cover for so long. But no doubt, the DBs had their own issues last year separate of those of the rest of the defense. Three returning starters, lots of experience, and some young players on the rise, however, should make for a better secondary in 2012.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Friday night Apple Cup?
A: To be clear, an exact time for the Apple Cup has not yet been set — being that that is a holiday, the game could well be during the day. Either way, it will be different playing it on a Friday the day after Thanksgiving in Pullman, when school is out. To me, that will be the biggest question — will WSU students return to campus and fill up that section to give the game the type of atmosphere it usually has?
That the game was moved in the first place is the kind of reality of the new TV deal that fans will have to accept. All teams will be required to play more Thursday and Friday games and to do so in a calendar compressed by a week due to the Pac-12 championship game. The schools — who all gladly took all that money from the new TV deal — can’t really say no (or certainly not very often) when the conference and the networks ask them to move games. So get used to it.
Q: Can the Pac-12 win the national title next year?
A: Sure, why not? At the end of the 2011 season USC looked like one of the best teams in the nation — Oregon helped validate USC’s win in Eugene when it went on to win the Rose Bowl — and the Trojans look to be even stronger in 2012. Depending on how its QB situation shakes out (as well as the NCAA issues) Oregon could also be a factor in the national title race.
Q: Will the defense look drastically different each week depending on the opposition?
A: The definition of drastic may be in the eye of the beholder. I don’t think they’d be solely in a 4-3 one week and then a 3-4 the next, if that’s what you mean. But any defense tries to change things up each week based on who they are playing, and devising gameplans was regarded as one of Justin Wilcox’s strengths while at Tennessee.
That said, I don’t think it’s fair to imply that UW didn’t do that under Nick Holt. Washington’s lack of defensive success last season wasn’t due to a lack of not trying to change things up each week. The Huskies tried all kinds of things during Holt’s tenure, and while there’s much talk now of UW shifting to the 3-4, the reality is they’ve done a lot of it the last few years anyway.
But one of the obvious hopes will be that as the young talent matures and as the new coaches recruit more young talent, that they will have the players in place to be as versatile as needed from week to week.
Q: Besides Danny Shelton, what other defensive tackle should have the most impact in 2012?
A: If he’s able to get healthy and back to full football playing shape, how about Semisi Tokolahi? Tokolahi came back from a brutal ankle injury in the 2010 Apple Cup to play in 10 games, and start seven, in 2011. But other than in a few bursts here and there, he didn’t seem to make the same impact as he had in 2010, and no doubt the injury and still being in recovery mode was a contributing factor.