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Defensive mainstays Willie Taylor III, Skyler Thomas in uniform, don’t start for Washington State against Stanford

By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

PULLMAN – Two mainstays from a maligned Washington State defense dressed but didn’t start in the Cougars’ 49-22 victory over Stanford on Saturday.

Sophomore Willie Taylor III, who had started eight of nine games at “Rush” linebacker, was replaced in the starting lineup by redshirt freshman Ron Stone Jr. Taylor didn’t appear on defense until the final play of the first half and finished the game with zero tackles.

Junior Skyler Thomas, who started five games at nickel before moving to strong safety the last four, was replaced in the starting lineup by redshirt freshman Pat Nunn. Thomas had started 22 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak on the defense behind junior Jahad Woods (32).

But once he made his first appearance on defense in the second quarter, Thomas had six tackles, second most on the team. He also intercepted a pass - his team-leading third of the season - with the Cougars leading 35-22 in the fourth quarter.

“Skyler is a really good player,” Woods said. “I’ve seen him go through ups and downs just like every one of my teammates. He has a lot of confidence in himself and he showed that he can play up to his ability.”

Four Washington State players have started all 10 games on defense: junior linebackers Justus Rogers and Woods, as well as senior corner Marcus Strong and junior free safety Bryce Beekman.