Thursday, April 05, 2007

Spring Preview - Defense

We officially are about to begin Ty Willingham's third spring camp, and while the rebuilding job is far from complete, the Huskies have started the process of heading back up hill, and hope to be bowl eligible in 2007. It is an achievable goal with the amount of talent returning on both sides of the ball.

For once UW is going into Spring healthy with nobody who is going to miss the session. This is pretty huge since for the last five or so years we had a lot of kids standing on the sideline unable to participate. you can attribute a lot of it to the new strength and conditioning programs instituted since Ty has been on board. Trent Greener has really done a good job keeping kids from getting injured by making them more flexible. While the team is healthy, the overall numbers are down, and that is something that won't correct itself till next year when the big class arrives.

Let's start our review on the defensive side of the ball.

Defensive Line

Once again the Huskies are blessed with experience, and depth on the defensive line. The unit doesn't have a superstar, but Wilson Afoa starts his senior season as a three way starter inside at tackle. Jordan Reffett will flank him, but the coaches are looking for Cameron Elisara to assert himself, and push for plenty of playing time. Lobo's returns healthy, and could be a key back up, while Kosub could contribute while learning the ropes. That gives the Huskies five experienced guys to work with. They have two promising freshmen in Nick Wood who could play right away if needed, and Tyrone Duncan who probably could use some seasoning. Jovan O'Connor hasn't seen the field yet, and is a candidate for the four, and out program if he doesn't make a move this Spring.

Out at the end Daniel Teo Neshiem seems to have moved into the position of being the most promising player after starting as a RS. Greyson Gunheim has something to prove after a very sub par year in 2006 that saw him lose his starting job to Brandon Ala. Ceasar Rayford has done a good job to put himself into play situationally, and the Huskies will try to find the right way to maximize his talent. For the Huskies to improve out here they need some help from Atkins, Jones, and Matthews who all sat out last year learning the system, and getting physically developed. You need a couple of those guys to step up and challenge if the overall position is to be improved. Frosh Kalani Aldrich is a guy like Wood who could play right away if needed. Walter Winter has moved to TE, but he could always move back during the Spring.

Projected Depth Chart

DT Afoa, Lobos, Wood, Duncan
DT *Elisara, *Reffett, Kosub
DE Gunheim, Matthews, Jones, Aldrich
DE Teo Neshiem, Rayford, Atkins


Daniel Howell is going to be the graybeard of the group as he returns for his senior season at UW. Howell finally pushed Scott white aside last year and forced him to change positions. He is going to be flanked by two guys the coaches really like, EJ Savannah, and Donald Butler. If EJ can stay healthy he can push for all star status, he has the potential to be that good. Jones of course wrestled away a starting position half way through the season last year as a frosh. Behind them you have Stevens who will play quite a bit in specialized roles, he will be all over the field. Matt Houston has received some praise from Ty in the off season, and he figures to get his first time this year as a RS. Tuiasosopo should be be hitting his first spring with little to worry about. He actually played his first season last year after being injured his first two years at UW. Expect a player that won't concede the starting position to Butler. Trew also returns inside and did well last year when he played. Of the Frosh, Foster, and Dennison, Foster is probably the closest to being ready to play. The Huskies are bringing in lots of athletes who can play all over the field, so you could see some RB's, or DB's being moved here if the who fits the need. Sylvester is an example of a kid who could start off playing ILB, or on the offensive side at FB.

If you want to look at one area of this team that has had a total most likely successful makeover since Ty arrived it is at LB. Size, speed, attitude, and athletic ability have really increased the last three years. This is the year we get to see what these guys can do with some experience under their belt.

(Look for Houston have a good Spring, and join the rotation. Tui should be back to full speed minus the rust.)

Projected Depth Chart

ILB Butler, Tuiasosopo, Dennison
ILB Howell, Houston, Trew
WLB *Savannah, *Stevens, Foster

Defensive Back

The Huskies have been improving the defensive backfield over the past couple of years, but two guys that will play on Sundays, Goldson, and Wallace have moved on, and that leaves some big holes to fill over the Spring, and Fall. The Huskies are still playing catchup back here with numbers for the most part, and that has been the case since the Neuheisel days.

The Huskies bring in a large freshman DB class this Fall that needs to be ready to play as soon as they hit campus. Improvement now, and in the immediate future depends on what these kids are able to do back here.

At cornerback the Huskies have three kids with a little experience, and one guy that should vie for Pac Ten honors in Ray Lewis. Byron Davenport is transfer who spent his first year at UCLA, he then transferred to a JC, didn't play, and arrives at UW to immediately fight for a starting job with Mosley and Murchison who redshirted last season. Behind them you have the frosh Persley, and McDowell. Depending on how the chips land both could see action this year because everything is extremely open to competition. Mesphin Forrester who the coaches prefer at Safety was a utility guy last year who got time at both positions.

Murchison is a guy who most people thought could contribute right away last Spring, but he has a bum knee that won't get much better, so even though he has the talent, he isn't a solid bet unless he can stay healthy. Mosley is a kid who could have lost his RS last year, he still needs some seasoning. Davenport is a cut above usual JC recruits because he really is a Pac Ten transfer. He will arrive in the Fall.

At Safety the Huskies have to replace CJ Wallace, and they have two kids with experience in Forrester, and Wells. Behind them is nothing but freshman as far as the eye can see. 2-3 guys are going to play right away. Richardson, Aieyewa, Logan, and Williams are the guys who are expected to come in this Fall and vie for position at Safety. If Wells, or Forrester go down it is going to get very interesting, and not in a good way unless one of the frosh steps up in a big way. No way to get around this, the Huskies need immediate help from young guys at this position.

One wild card going into the Spring the coaches have mentioned going into the Spring is the return of Federal Way's Darin Harris from a broken Vertebrae. Harris has some starting experience from two years ago, but the injury has kept him out of the lineup for quite some time. If he can get shake the rust off this Spring he could provide depth anywhere in the defensive backfield.

Projected Depth

CB Lewis, Murchison, McDowell
CB *Davenport, *Mosley, Persley
WS Forrester, Aiyewa, Logan
SS Wells, Harris, Williams, Richardson

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