Washington focuses on defense for 2011 class

One of the biggest focuses for the Washington coaching staff as far as the 2011 recruiting class is concerned has been upgrading the speed and talent on defense. So far, they're off to a solid start with at least nine of their 18 commits slated for that side of the ball and the Huskies are in the running for several top defenders who could change the face of recruiting over the next few months...

Following the season, Washington will lose S Nate Williams, DT Cameron Elisara, LB Mason Foster and LB Victor Aiyewa, all starters, from a defense that has given up 440 yards of offense per game this season, ranking them 107th in the country. That might sound like a good thing, but three of the four have been major contributors this season stat-wise – Foster ranks second in the country at nearly 13 tackles per game – and the fourth is considered an emotional leader along the front four, although his career is likely over due to a neck injury.

Replacing them will be a combination of players already on the roster as well as players who could come in this spring or summer and contribute right away.

Here's a relatively early look at Washington's defensive recruiting, who is already committed, who they have a realistic shot at, which schools they are competing against and when players plan to make their decisions known...

Defensive Line

Washington's defensive line has been below-average much of the season as they've dealt with injuries to three upper-classmen and they've played several true freshman.

That can only bode well for the future, but the Huskies are looking to bring in at least six players who can help up front, if not right away, then definitely down the road considering that Alameda Ta'amu and Everrette Thompson both graduate after the 2011 season.

At defensive tackle, the Huskies already have a commitment from Archbishop Murphy's Taniela Tupou. While he's listed as a defensive end, the Everett native has the size and frame to be a 295-pound monster after a year or two in the strength and conditioning program.

Tupou has made it known he plans to take his two-year LDS mission, but that isn't set in stone and he may end up sticking around to focus on school and his football career. We'll see.

Scout has Maataua Brown, an athletic lineman from Paramount, Ca., listed at defensive tackle, but the jury is still out on where he will end up when he arrives at Montlake. He's an explosive player who is very aggressive on the defensive side of the ball and looks like he might be a better fit on that side.

Brown has some academic hurdles to overcome, so it remains to be seen whether he will make it in or not, but if he does, he could be a player to watch as early as next season with his size and talent.

With those two players committed, Washington is still in the mix for some top interior defensive linemen including local standout Danny Shelton from Auburn as well as California defensive tackles Antwaun Woods (Taft) and Viliami Moala (Grant).

Lakewood's Todd Barr and Point Loma's Christian Heyward are also players who have given Washington long looks, but the Huskies don't appear to be in as good a shape with them as they are for Shelton, Woods and Moala.

Woods committed early to USC, but has wavered and appears to be Washington's best shot at pulling in a top, nationally recruited athlete at defensive tackle.

Moala loves Cal and is considered a heavy lean to the Golden Bears, but when he took his visit to Washington back in September he admitted he came away more impressed with the Huskies than he'd anticipated.

Shelton has been considered a Husky lean for quite some time and since his family is squarely in Washington's corner, he's likely headed to Montlake. The main competition for the talented lineman's signature appears to be Oregon, a school he's been watching since he was a small child, but, at this point, they are a long shot to get his commitment.

Shelton is also a devastating guard on offense, so depending on how many players the Huskies are able to pull in for the 2011 class, they could opt to move him to the offensive line.

The defensive end position already has Walnut (Ca.) ATH Aubrey Coleman, Skyline (Sammamish, Wa.) DE Connor Cree and Juanita (Kirkland) DE Jarrett Finau slated to sign, so the Huskies have been a bit more selective in their offers.

Coleman could end up playing on either side of the ball, but has been told by the Washington staff that he will start off at defensive end. He's an explosive athlete with a frame that can easily add 30 or 40 pounds.

Cree is a blue-collar type who uses his high Football I.Q. and quick first step to cause problems off the edge for opposing offenses. He's probably a better fit on the strongside, but he's got the quickness needed to play the weakside.

Finau is LDS, so after spending a year at Washington, he will take a two-year hiatus to fulfill his mission and then will return to action in 2014. He's a very athletic player who is just starting to realize his potential on the defensive side of the ball. He's raw, but he's strong and he has a very high motor.

Topping the list of players the Huskies still hope to add to their class is Beverly Hills (Ca.) DE Greg Townsend, one of the top players on the west coast.

Townsend has maintained Washington, USC and TCU, where is father attended and played, are his top three for some time, but recently noted he could take a visit to Oregon as well.

The Huskies are right in the mix and some rumors have been floating around they may be the favorite of the talented lineman. Some consider him a better fit inside with his big frame and strong lower body, but he will get his first chance at defensive end if he winds up signing with the Huskies.

Townsend recently told Scout.com's Brandon Huffman that he plans to make his announcement at the Under Armour All-American game being held January 8th, so that will be something to intrigue the Washington faithful for the next eight weeks.

Could Townsend be this year's Sean Parker? Stranger things have happened.

Also in the mix is Crespi (Encino, Ca.) DE Reggie Coates and the last time Dawgman.com was able to speak to him he noted that the Huskies are in the lead for his services, but the problem is things might fill up if Townsend decides to commit to the Huskies and with Coates coming off a knee injury, he might not be as explosive or as quick as he had been.


The Huskies have been doling out offers left and right to JUCO linebackers, hoping to add some size, speed and talent to a unit that loses two starters after the season in Aiyewa and Foster.

Washington already has commitments from Dorsey (Los Angeles) LB Matthew Lyons and Oak Grove (San Jose) and two players who are greyshirting, Brent Williams and John Timu, who will enroll this spring.

Timu, who continues to rehab from a torn ACL, was recruited as a safety, but has the frame necessary to be a linebacker and would add a lot of athleticism and playmaking ability to the position.

Williams showed up weighing 188 pounds last summer and was greyshirted so he could add some size and strength before enrolling in January. Unlike Timu, who headed home to finish his rehab, Williams remained in Seattle and has been working out at a local gym to get ready for the rigors of Pac 10 football.

Ventura's Brenden Daley and Southwestern's Thomas Tutogi are both projected at inside linebacker whereas Phoenix College's Alonzo Highsmith Jr. projects outside and all three have been offered within the past four weeks.

Tutogi is a tackling-machine, posting 96 tackles so far this season while Daley is a devastating blitzer for the Pirates. One thing both bring to the table is a physicality the Huskies have lacked at the position in recent years.

Highsmith is smaller, but has good speed and quickness, which allows him to cover the tight ends and running backs in space.

Also on the hook at this position, from the prep ranks, are Long Beach Poly's Corey Waller, Guthrie's LB Kentrell Brothers and Mullen's Leilon Willingham and Selesian's Devon Moreland, an SMU-commit, could end up visiting as well.

Waller has had Washington high on his list, but with USC offering, many think he will ultimately end up becoming a Trojan. However, he maintains the Huskies are his leader publically, so it will be interesting to see how his recruitment plays out.

Brothers is expected to make his announcement on Wednesday (November 10th) and it appears the Huskies, along with Arizona State, Vanderbilt, Missouri and Tulsa are the five finalists. Just looking at that list and taking into account that Washington and ASU were his only two visits (at least reported), the Sun Devils might have to be considered the leader, however Missouri is closer to home and they have a real need at the linebacker position next year.

Willingham visited Washington when they played Stanford and was a bit elusive on his thoughts about the program, but said the Huskies showed him a good time and the fact that he already knows receiver Devin Aguilar, that puts them right in the mix.

Moreland seemed infatuated with SMU over the summer and made a very early commitment, but Washington has continued talking to him and may convince him to visit before signing day on February 2nd.

Look for Washington to add at least four more players at this position including at least two of the JUCO ‘backers who will all be expected to come in during the spring and challenge for time.

Defensive Backs

The defensive back position has three commitments – Kameron Jackson and Joel Willis at corner and Evan Zeger at safety – but the Huskies want to find at least one more corner and one more safety.

Jackson is one of the better corner prospects on the west coast and plays for one of the best programs in the Golden State while Willis is a dynamic playmaker who could play corner, receiver or running back and is an outstanding return man as well.

Willis has had some interest in looking at other schools, including Nebraska, Arizona and Utah, but remains committed to the Huskies.

Zeger has the frame to move up to linebacker in the future, but as this point, he's set for one of the safety positions. He is a physical presence in the secondary and could be a devastating strong safety after two years in the system.

Washington's top three players still left on the board at the DB position are Crenshaw CB DeAnthony Thomas, Vista CB Stefan McClure and Grant S James Sample.

McClure loves the Huskies and will be making a decision at some point before the end of the year while Thomas remains committed to USC but is looking around.

Sample, who Dawgman.com spoke to recently, maintains Washington is his leader, but wants to check out Oregon State and Oregon before he commits to a school. Cal and Arizona State are also in the mix, but Sample appears to have cooled on both at this point.

Keep an eye on Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, a physical corner from Chino Hills, as well as Marcus Peters from McClymonds and Los Angeles Harbor College's Byron Moore, a bounceback from USC, is very high on their list as well.

One more safety to keep an eye on is Patrick Onwuasor from Inglewood. He's very physical for his size and he's got ball-hawking skills but might be a better fit at corner with his lack of ideal safety size, although he reminds people a lot of Sean Parker.

Expect the Huskies to take a corner and one more safety before they wrap up their DB recruiting.

So that's a quick breakdown of what Husky fans can keep an eye on the rest of the season as we get ready to get into the crazy recruiting time from December through the first week of February.

Hang on Dawg fans, it will be a fun ride.

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