Friday, January 25, 2008

UW Analysis - Linebacker

We have had a lot of Husky news going this week because of the stadium, political rumblings, and of course the search for a DC which most likely came to an end today. So anyway, lets get back to football. I continue our Winter preview with a look at the linebackers.

Washington was hampered by injury at linebacker last season. You could see the play fall apart as the health failed and the season went on. Remember how fast they looked at Syracuse? Well injuries slowed them down by mid season.

Donald Butler was supposed to be an anchor in the middle but pre season surgery for a knee injury limited his play for most of the season. He would have been better served with a RS season, but depth forced him on to the field of play. Daniel Howell was hobbled the entire year and was a shadow of his former self. EJ Savannah played well, but missed time here and there all season. He may never get completely healthy.

LB coach Chris Tormey got a lot of criticism starting with the Ohio State game. A lot of experts, and I mean real experts, not just Tim Meamber, felt that the LB crew was out of position most of the game, and poorly prepared. Tough to say if it was Tormey's, or Baer's fault. Was it just simple execution? Poor Alignment? Poor coaching? Whatever the reason something wasn't clicking back there.

Make no doubt about it though, there is a new sheriff in town by the name of Ed Donatell who should be able to bring new blood, and shake things up in 2008. Ed has a lot of experience, and has been a DC in the NFL. We should see improvement next season.

This coming season the Huskies return five experienced players to man the 3-4 positions depending on which alignment they decide to go with. EJ Savannah emerged as the best player on the unit last season, while Freshman Mason Foster served notice that he is going to be a force in the future. Trenton Tuiasosopo started the majority of the games in the middle, but he was a falloff from a healthy Donald Butler. You have to admire Trenton for coming back from those horrible injuries, but he just isn't fast enough. Chris Stevens had some big plays in limited action. One has to wonder why he wasn't utilized more as a pass rusher as he had been in earlier years. Good things to seem to happen when he is around the ball.

Cort Dennison who red shirted last year picked showed his potential working with the Scout team last season. Matt Houston played sparingly in his first season of action. The Huskies are bringing in a number of players who can be shifted to LB if needed in the future, but the two designated guys are Cory MacKay who will start off outside, and Kurt Mangum who will begin inside. Both of the newcomers should red shirt no matter which alignment UW goes with.

Victor Aieywa, and Quentin Richardson who are currently at Safety are players that could move to LB if a shift in scheme demands it. Both are big physical players who will see the field this season.


This unit needs to play better, stay healthy, prepare better, and be coached better. Savannah, Foster, and Butler are a very solid foundation to build on. Expect those three to be your starters next season if healthy. Behind them you have some question marks. Chris Stevens is a little too one dimensional. Too early to tell if Houston will develop into anything special. Dennison who gained scout team accolades last season could be a player. Tuiasosopo will provide solid minutes once again, but behind him we need another thumper to develop. That thumper should be Kurt Mangum who has the potential to be a good one.

When is Washington going to recruit the next great linebacker?

If you go back to 2001 Scott White, or Joe Lobendahn are probably the best UW linebackers of the last decade.

Scott "Fricken" White?
Joe "Slow" Lobendahn?

No offense meant toward those guys, but that might tell you a quite a bit why this team has been struggling since the last Rose Bowl visit. Where are the Michael Jackson's, Fred Small's, Andy Mason's, and Dave Hoffman's?

Savannah, Butler, and Foster really need to step it up next year. All three have pretty good potential when healthy. Is one of them the next great linebacker? Well E.J. has the talent, and Foster should be a sideline to sideline monster. We haven't had a great look at Butler because of his injury. Going into the Spring I would say this unit has more questions than answers.


lm said...

UW has never been know an a LB factory. But there have been some good ones in recent years.

Lobendahn might not have been fast, but he was a instinctive LB who was usually in the right place and hit HARD. He would have had back-to-back 100 tackle years if not for injuries.

Some other good ones were Evan Benjamin, Marquis Cooper and Lester Towns. John Fiala and Ben Mahdavi were hard-working over-achievers.

The best LB since Dave Hoffman is Jason Chorak. He played more of the OLB/DE position, but was a monster his junior year.

John Berkowitz said...

Injuries took a toll on Lobendahn. Lester was a player till he dropped a weight on his foot. Have to agree on Chorak.

Husky Mom said...

Washington already has recruited the next great linebacker and I can hardly wait for you to see who it is......! Will go down in history as the "best" linebacker to ever attend U of W.

John Berkowitz said...

Husky Mom---Sounds like one of the kids in this recruiting class. We have heard a lot of good things about Mangum, and McKay has some very nice speed and size for the outside.

Mason Foster is the guy I would pick with the highest ceiling on the roster right now. Why Mason? He is the healthiest of the three starters going into Spring.

fusion06 said...

In reading and watching film on him I really like Kurt Mangum. I was reading an recruiting article which listed him as one of the biggest sleepers of this class. Some possible reasons he was not ranked high maybe that he attended 4 different HS in 4 yrs, he moved to AZ from MI, and he played DT his junior year. He has gained rave reviews at every camp he attended, including def. MVP at the scouts Cali camp and adidas camps and Def. MVP of nike camp last summer. I think UW got a steal with this kid. I look for big things from him

t9odawg said...

Hi husky Mom,
you'll have a blast at Husky Stadium when you come up to watch the games. Get ready for some noise if they get back to playing the old hard nosed style of Husky defense. We're all hopefull the new DC will instill a new attitude for the defense