WSU Cougs of the Decade – Defense

So we put up the first “Coug of the Decade” poll for offensive players, and you have made your choice.  LOUD AND CLEAR, I might add.  In complete non-shocker fashion (and for good reason), congrats to Jason Gesser, WSU’s offensive player of the decade

Jason Gesser:  213 votes, 60.3%

Jerome Harrison:  80 votes, 22.7%
Jason Hill:  20 votes, 5.7%
Alex Brink:  20 votes, 5.7%
Brandon Gibson:  20 votes, 5.7%

Total number of voters:  353

First vote:  Tuesday, 08 December 2009 09:47
Last vote:  Monday, 14 December 2009 10:10
Gess pretty much ran away with it.  Jerome Harrison was a solid #2, and then the remaining votes were split amongst Brink, Gibson and Hill.

The most impressive thing about Gesser isn’t just the wins.  Well, OK, the wins are super-impressive.  He is the only Coug QB to ever win as many as 20 games over a two-year period, the first ever to post back-to-back 10-win seasons.  But did you know that in Gesser’s 35 collegiate starts, the Cougars won 24 of them? A winner in every possible way. 

But it really is the passing numbers as well.  Before Alex Brink passed him by in several categories, Gesser was at or near the top in pretty much everything.  But he led in the “sexy” stats at the end of his time at WSU, breaking school records for career passing yardage (8,830) and TD passes (70).  He also set a school record by throwing at least one TD pass in 25 consecutive games.  The first Coug ever to be elected team captain for three straight years from ’00-’02, he was 7th in Heisman voting in 2002 and won co-player of the year in the Pac-10 along with USC’s Carson Palmer. 

We salute you, Jason Gesser.  And maybe, just maybe, you’ll one day be on the WSU sidelines again, or even up in the coaches booth calling plays?  WSU would be lucky to welcome him back into the fold….somehow, someday.  However it happens, WSU needs Jason Gesser to be a part of Cougar football again.

Alright, enough of the offense.  Time to look at the top WSU Coug defenders of the decade!  This list was a little tougher to put together if you want to know the truth.  But the final five we chose all stand their ground as the finest to don the crimson-n-gray this decade.  So here they are, the nominess for Coug of the decade, defensive-style:

1) Marcus Trufant, cornerback – 1999-2002.

Ask your typical Coug fan, quick, who’s maybe the best cornerback in school history?  You may get a few different names, but more than likely, Marcus Trufant will be the one you hear the most.  But take a look at the WSU record book, and it’s hard to find a whole lot of mention of Trufant.  8th all time in school history in career interceptions, 9th in interception return yardage, but not really up there in a whole lot of other categories like INT’s for TD’s, tackles, etc.  It’s hard to judge Trufant simply by looking at the numbers.  But there is a reason the overall numbers don’t move the needle, and it’s this – Trufant was a guy that opposing QB’s just never really threw his way his whole career.  He was the closest thing WSU has had in recent history in terms of “shutdown corner”. 

Sure, he was beaten a few times, but not much, and certainly not later in his career.  In fact, per school records, Trufant didn’t allow a single TD pass in his final two years at WSU! That, my friends, is BIG-TIME, and a huge reason he was a high first-round pick.  An All-Pac-10 selection and All-American his senior year, Trufant is not just one of the best defensive players of the decade, he’s possibly one of the greatest in school history.

2)  Rien Long, defensive tackle – 2000-2002.  An absolutely dominant defensive tackle and one of the most decorated players in WSU history, Long was a gigantic part of the success of the ’02 Pac-10 champions.  Long would rack up 21.5 tackles for loss, including 13 sacks in ’02, on his way to first-team All-American honors and the Outland Trophy.

WSU fans will always remember his performance vs. USC that championship season, especially in overtime.  Long would smother a running play for a big loss and rack up a QB sack, forcing a long field goal attempt that USC would miss.  Long finished his career fifth in school history in tackles for loss, seventh in sacks, and ninth in sack yardage.  One wonders what could have been had Long come back for his senior season.  It’s not hard to fathom that he would be at or near the top in pretty much every tackle-for-loss/sack category available, but still an impressive career from a defensive tackle! 

3) D.D. Acholonu, defensive end – 2000-2003.  Maybe a mild surprise to some of you, but it’s hard to argue with the numbers of the wonderful speed-rusher off the edge.  Acholonu had a linebackers body at 6-3, 230, but rushed the passer with speed and power, one of the top sack-specialists in school history.  Acholonu’s ’03 season was really special, third in school history in tackles for loss (21), second in tackles for loss yardage (130), second in sacks (16.5), and second in sack yardage (121). 

Acholonu would save his best for last, with three sacks for 30 yards vs. Texas in the ’03 Holiday bowl.  He was absolutely relentless the entire game, and made two huge plays to end the game with a strip, and then sacking Texas’ Chance Mock to end the game as the Cougs got the 28-20 win.  Remember?

2003 was special, but D.D. wasn’t just a one-year wonder.  He’s third in school history in tackles for loss (44.5), second in tackle-for-loss yardage (261) and second in sacks (32.5) and sack yardage (235).  Clearly one of the greatest pass-rushers in school history, and definitely one of the best in the decade!

4)  Will Derting, linebacker – 2001-2005.  Ah yes, #51.  While not exactly a stat-monster, still, Derting is an all-time favorite among Coug fans with his relentless motor and huge hits.  Unfortunately injuries robbed him of some playing time, or else Derting would be way up the ladder in terms of pure stats, but still, for basically starting three years worth of games, Derting made an impact.  Sixth all-time in tackles for loss (32), tenth in sacks (14.5), Derting was all over the field whenever he was out there. 

Derting was all-Pac-10 as a sophomore and a junior, showing just how dominant he was when he was able to get on the field.  Injuries destroyed his 6-0, 233 pound body, to the point that he barely had anything left in his knee at the end of his career.  However, he would scrape himself together and deliver in the ’05 Apple Cup, his last collegiate game, leading the team in tackles playing on a knee described as “hanging by a thread”.  There is a reason you still see so many #51 jerseys around Pullman on gameday!  Derting is truly an all-time fav, and without question one of the best defensive players of the decade.

5)  Mkristo Bruce, defensive end – 2003-2006.  One of the best pass-rushers in school history, and definitely one of the toughest players ever to don the Cougar uniform, Bruce rounds out the top five of the decade.  Third in school history in sacks (29.5), fourth in sack yardage (154), second in tackles for loss (45.5) and fourth in tackle-for-loss yardage (209), Bruce is all over the WSU record book. 

Bruce had a school-record FIVE sacks vs. Stanford in ’06, on his way to all-conference and second-team All-American honors.  He had a two-year stretch from ’05-’06 where he totaled 21 sacks, the third best stretch in school history.  Maybe not the most explosive player ala D.D. Acholonu, but certainly one of the most consistent pass rushers in school history and with a motor that never quit, Bruce is one of the best defenders of the decade. 

So there you have it, the top defensive players of the decade.  Get in there and vote! 

Enjoy your Monday, and GO COUGS!