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Biggest shoes to fill: Washington State

Players come and go.

In a perfect world, teams only have to reload, not rebuild. But following this season, there are a lot of shoes that need to be filled due to early departures and expected graduations.

That leaves the question: Will these spots be reloading or rebuilding? Your humble Pac-12 blog takes a look at some of the biggest shoes that need to be filled entering the 2015 season.

For the complete list from this series, click here.

Washington State Cougars

Biggest shoes: DT Xavier Cooper

It would have been easy to list quarterback Connor Halliday or wide receiver Vince Mayle based on what they did last season, but does anyone think the transition to Luke Falk -- or anyone else, really -- will result in much decline in WSU's passing game? Halliday was very good. An all-time great at the school, even. But if there is one thing Mike Leach can be counted on to do, it's have the next quarterback ready. With that, almost by default, we look to the other side of the ball, where there are plenty of gaps to plug. Most notably: Cooper. At 6-foot -4 and 299 pounds, the defensive tackle experienced enough success over the past three seasons to convince himself he was ready for the NFL draft. He finished the season with 37 tackles, led the team with 9.5 tackles for loss and was one of the few players who physically stood out on defense for the Cougars. His early departure stings worse considering it wasn't a foregone conclusion he would leave, and it coincides with the end of nose tackle Toni Pole's career, too.

Stepping in: sophomore Daniel Ekuale, junior Robert Barber, freshman Ngalu Tapa

Ekuable and Barber both stepped in at times with varying degrees of success last year, but neither played enough to develop much of a meaningful opinion about them. Coincidently, they're both from Pago Pago, American Samoa (attended different high schools) and don't have much in the way of recruiting profiles, either. At 6-2 and 314 pounds, Tapa is a name to keep an eye on coming off his redshirt season. A three-star recruit in 2014, he was a dominant high school player in one of the best leagues in Northern California. Recent four-star signee Thomas Toki should also compete for playing time as a freshman.