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.