- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Washington State defensive coordinator Mike Breske took a few minutes out of his busy recruiting schedule to answer some questions about WSU's transition to a new coach, a new scheme, some personnel questions and the challenges of facing Mike Leach's offense every day in practice. Here's part two of the two-part Q&A.
In the past you've talked about the ball being in the air 70-75 percent of the time in Mike Leach's offense. Is that going to affect how you guys practice as a defense -- especially when you have to prepare for ground-based teams?
MB: Certainly. On defense, we're going to manufacture in terms of the run game and what we're going to see. For example, the power play. And tight ends -- Stanford, USC -- teams that are multiple and we'll have to do a great job manufacturing that with our scout team. We're going to have to coach up the young kids and teach them to run the power and split zone and some traditional two-back plays and get the offensive line to where they are not in a vertical setting, they're not going backwards, but coming forward. That's going to be a challenge for us on defense. But that's what it is and that's what we've got to do so we're effective on defense. Coaches are aware of that and we've talked about it and we've got a plan in place once our young people get here.
It's no surprise that you need good cornerbacks in this conference. Have Damante [Horton] and Daniel [Simmons] locked in the two spots at cornerback?
MB: Not yet. We're going to go through two-a-days and talk to all the kids in the back end. We had our exit meetings after spring ball and told them the competition isn't over. We really only had three cornerbacks this spring. Those two and Tracy Clark this spring. [ Nolan] Washington, I never saw this spring. He was hurt. Wasn't cleared to practice other than every-day drills. Never did any seven-on-seven, 11-on-11 or one-on-one situations so I'm excited to see him when he gets going. We'll have some competition at least through the first scrimmage then we'll see where we are at.
Are you where you want to be depth-wise on the defensive line or do think you could see some true freshmen coming in and making an impact?
MB: As long as I've been in this game, it's tough for true freshmen at that position to come in and make an impact. I don't care if you're talking the FCS or the FBS level, it's difficult. There is such a difference between a D-lineman and a corner. I'm hoping that we get healthy. We had some injuries up front during the spring. We had some physical practices. Hopefully we get everybody back and then take a look at the freshmen coming in. We've got one JC kid that will be playing, but we've got two kids coming from Samoa. One was a tight end in high school and now he's going to be a 300-pound biscuit at defensive end. The other kids is another D-lineman who will be a big-sized kid. But where they are at skill level, they are going to be behind. We'll see where they are at during two-a-days. Ideally, we want to redshirt them. If we can't, we can't. The future is now.
Plus, I don't think I've ever heard a coach say they are satisfied with depth.
MB: Very true. Through recruiting, we're going to need to develop more depth -- especially up front. And with the switch to 3-4, we're going to need to develop more depth at the linebacker position.
Last question. I love hearing back stories and how coaches adopted their philosophies. Where does yours come from? What made you buy into the 3-4 and that it was the best defense and the one you want run?
MB: I'll probably give away my age here. Way back when, I was always around the 5-2 angle. We called it a drop-down end and a rush-end. All it was was a 3-4 defense and then someone came up with "outside linebacker" term because that sounded more modern than a rush-end and a drop-end. So back when I was playing in the Midwest, offenses we saw were the veer offense and some type of option football. Teams didn't throw the ball unless they had to throw ball. So you loaded up the box with the angle defense, the 5-2, played cover-3, got eight in the box and played football. As the game evolved, people had to come up with different things front-wise and cover-wise and different type of athletes. Now with the spread offense, it's so much one-on-one tackling from a defensive point of view, we're not looking at great size. We're looking at great agility. Great tackling. Great one-on-one. Because if you miss that tackle, bam, it's a big play. That atypical 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 kid, you know what, if a guy is 6-0 and he has great hips and he can run, he's going to play. That's evolved to what we used to see. And the Pac-12 is evolving -- whatever you want to call the schemes, 3-4, 4-3, 3-3-5, the defenses in this league are becoming more multiple and that's going to require offenses to adjust too. And it's going to make for a much more exciting Pac-12. But we have to be solid against the run. Always our commitment is to stop the run and get people to throw the ball. That's never going to change and hopefully we're going to be effective at it.