I was talking to Nathan Ware the other day on the phone and he told me that I am just going to love what I see on defense next season. He thinks Donatell has done a super job putting talent in the right places, and developing a set of schemes which are light years ahead of what Baer brought to the table the three past years.
Nathan went on to say that the Donatell has been one step ahead of Lappano all Spring in scrimmages. He prefaced the remark with the simple fact that Ed usually knows what the offense will be throwing at him which makes the task easier. I take this as a good sign because Coach Baer was never one step ahead of anybody during his time at UW.
Speaking of Tim Lappano, he has been integrating a lot of young players into the skill positions this Spring. Depth at RB has been a concern over the last half of the Spring because of injuries, and attrition. He has a lot of depth at WR, but only Goodwin has emerged so far as a sure thing because of his overall consistency. Look for the rest of the group to continue improving over the Summer.
Nathan and I will be doing one last "Backtalk with Johnny B" column next week after the Spring game in his PI Blog before he takes his summer hiatus.
Almost every person I have spoken to who has been to a practice loves the defense, and the way Donatell interacts with his staff, and players. I take this as a very good sign as spring practice wraps up because this unit as a whole had no other direction to go but up.
Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times wrote today about changes in the defensive backfield.
One of things I was really looking for this Spring was the emergence of younger players in the defensive backfield. Three second year players, Richardson, Aieywa, and Williams have made their moves and will arrive in the Fall to defend starting jobs they won over the Spring. That doesn't mean incumbent Safety, and team leader Jason Wells has been permanently bumped. Look for Jason to win one of the starting jobs this Fall if he stays healthy. It does mean we have developed some new blood, and the potential for quality depth at the position.
Byron Davenport had been penciled in as a starter at CB, but he simply hasn't gotten that much work this Spring because of nagging injuries. That opened the door for Richardson. Mesphin Forrester who is more suited to being a nickle CB has moved over from Safety and is starting right now. Look for a healthy Davenport, if there is such a thing to beat out Mesphin this Fall.
Linebacker continues to be the strength of the defense, and the Huskies have developed a lot of depth which means they can easily play 4-3, or 3-4 depending on the situation in 2008. Trenton Tuiasosopo has had his best Spring since arriving on campus, and that means the Huskies will be very strong in the middle when you consider they have Butler, and Foster also. Talking about Foster he can play inside or outside, it doesn't really matter where this kid lines up, he will be one of the top eleven kids on the field this Fall.
EJ Savannah returned midway through the Spring after running the stadium stairs for a couple weeks. If he keeps his nose clean he is assured an outside spot. Houston, Dennison, Gage, and Wiggs have all had the chance to assert themselves this Spring and be noticed when he was on the sidelines. Donatell loves to mix things up, and the flexibility and depth of this LB corp will give him a lot of flexibility.
The defensive line is still a work in progress even though some observers have been impressed with what they have seen so far. Once again the ends led by Teo Nesheim, Jones, Matthews, and Aldrich have become a solid group that randy Hart will be able to rely on. Matthews has played a little inside, but that may be just a situational move that they will use on passing downs. He doesn't have the size to play there full time.
On the inside question marks remain. Cameron Elisara is one of the hardest workers on and off the the field for the team. The question is will that translate into an upgrade at one of the tackle spot in 2008? Observers haven't seen him break through the bubble yet. At the other spot Tyrone Duncan has been the man since the first week started as he pushed aside O'Connor and Wood to claim the spot. Johnnie Kirton has been in the mix and will at least in the rotation next Fall. Johnnie has wheels, and lets hope he has a good summer learning the techniques he needs to use to be successful.
Come Fall the defensive line will get a huge influx of young talent when the recruiting class arrives. Thompson, Taamu, Kelemente, and Noble are all going to get a shot at breaking into the rotation from the get go.