Washington Defensive Preview

Washington is off to a solid start defensively this season. Read on to see which players have been key to the start, how Arizona can score, and more.

Washington is a better defensive team than it was last year and is easily the biggest challenge that Arizona has faced on that side of the ball.

Nose tackle Danny Shelton started every game last season and has played since he was a freshman. The 330-pound tackle is considered to be stout against the run, but can also penetrate the gap and get some pressure on the opposing quarterback.

Lining up next to Shelton is 6-foot-5, 280-pound tackle Evan Hudson. Hudson is still adjusting to his new role on the defensive side of the ball, but his athletic frame speaks well for his possible development. He only has six tackles and is not considered a big threat to pressure the quarterback, but the potential is there.

The Huskies rely on a host of undersized defensive ends, led by Hau'oli Kikaha. Early in the season, Kikaha has been a steady force getting after the passer, though his lack of size can make him vulnerable on the edge. He has three sacks this season, but all three came against Idaho State. Kikaha only had two tackles against Boise State.

Lining up at the other end spot is 6-foot-3, 230-pound Cory Littleton, who is the size of a linebacker. That's not a bad thing, as his speed allows him to be effective and get into the backfield at times.

Joining the unit is pass rusher extraordinaire, Josh Shirley. Although the 6-foot-3, 232-pound Shirley is not listed as a starter, he has displayed glimpses of sporadic greatness and figures to get more playing time as the season goes on. As evidence of his inconsistency, Shirley had three sacks against Illinois, but only one tackle against Idaho State and Boise State.

Linebackers John Timu is definitely one to watch. UW head coach Steve Sarkisian says he should be healthy and ready to go, but it will still be interesting to see how he handles Arizona's offense and if he is truly healthy. If he is, Timu is expected to be a difference maker for the Huskies. He currently leads UW with 18 tackles and had 13 of them against Boise State.

Next to Timu is 6-foot-1, 217-pound linebacker Princeton Fuimaono, who has 17 tackles on the season and has been very consistent.

In terms of potential, the guy everybody looks at is sophomore Shaq Thompson. He currently has 13 tackles and his ability to play safety in high school has translated to him being a versatile player in college and one that can be very dangerous at times.

In addition to those linebackers, you can expect to see Travis Feeney. He is listed as a back-up on the depth chart, but definitely plays a legitimate role for the Huskies.He had six tackles and an interception against Arizona last season and the Wildcats are hoping he doesn't have a similar impact.

There isn't much size in the secondary, but there is more than enough talent to suffice. Safety Sean Parker is the leader of the secondary and one of the better safeties in the conference. He figures to be around the ball a lot Saturday.

Safety Will Shamburger doesn't make many impact plays, but he is solid in his position. The 6-foot-0, 192-pound safety only has eight tackles on the season, but is still the best option at his safety spot despite Tre Watson having a solid season.

Cornerback Marcus Peters is the youngest member of the secondary, but also the best prospect. Blessed with a solid frame and natural instincts, Peters seems on the verge of becoming one of the better corners in the conference.

The other cornerback spot is manned by Gregory Ducre. Ducre has a wealth of experience, but still figures to be the cornerback the Arizona coaches target. He had a big interception against Illinois and is not a bad player, but Peters is considered to be the better corner.

Players to Watch

#7 LB Shaq Thompson: The most decorated high school defender to enter the conference in 2012, Thompson hasn't had a major statistical impact this season, but it's a matter of time before he makes his move.

#22 DE Josh Shirley : Shirley doesn't start, but he is an explosive pass rusher with the ability to consistently beat slower tackles. He figures to be one of the more explosive players the Wildcats will face this season.

#1 S Sean Parker : Some players put up bigger numbers, but Parker not only brings experience, he brings talent. It will be especially important for Denker to be aware of Parker patrolling the middle of the field.

Keys to the Game

Pick Spots to Attack: Denker will have to throw the ball in this game and while he will be expected to take care of the ball, there should be some opportunities to go after the Husky secondary.

Attack the front seven: Some variation of this phrasing will be in every key to the game for the rest of the season, but as long as the best running back in the country is playing for Arizona, he is the key.

Avoid the early second half turnover: Depending on the elements, this game could be a close, sloppy contest and it will be imperative for the Cats not to give the home team easy points.

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