Redshirt Freshmen: Where will they fit?

Washington has brought in some very talented young players in Steve Sarkisian's first two seasons as the University of Washington's head football coach. Often times it's difficult to keep track of how the younger players in the program that are buried in the depth are doing.

The guys that play early and burn their redshirt seasons are in the forefront thus they get most of the attention. Guys like offensive linemen Erik Kohler and Colin Porter arrived so polished and at a position of such need that they were able to play right away. That is a pretty incredible feat considering they both play on the offensive line, a position that requires not only skill and strength but also incredible knowledge of the play book as well as the spacing and movement among the other guys on the line. It really speaks volumes in terms of: Just how thin the Husky offensive line was when they arrived; and how talented these two kids really are.

Other true freshman that played some this year included TB Jesse Callier, CB Greg Ducre, FB Zach Fogerson, LB Princeton Fuimaono, LB Garrett Gilliland, TE Michael Hartvigson, DE Hau'oli Jamora, S Sean Parker, LB Cooper Pelluer, DT Sione Potoa'e, WR Kevin Smith, and S Taz Stevenson. All these players played in at least four games during the season.

Kohler will challenge for a starting role on the line in 2012 most likely at right tackle, and Porter should get a shot at a starting guard position. Jamora will get a chance to be a starter at defensive end, as will Potoa'e at the defensive tackle position. These four will be counted on to produce solid numbers next season. Gilliland may also figure into the starting line up at the linebacker position, but still needs to put on some weight so he can shed blocks easier. At the very least, he will be in the two-deeps once again so he will need to produce consistently.

The others that played some this year will be more depth players who will add some on special teams but won't be depended on to play big minutes.

Now let's take a look at the 13 guys that were able to redshirt and see where they might be expected to land come next fall.

OG James Atoe (6-6, 355) – He is still raw, but his potential is well-documented. He is huge and he can move, two nice traits if you are an offensive lineman. I can see him moving up the depth in 2011 but hopefully he won't be asked to start contributing for another year after that in 2012. By then he will then have had two full years of learning the offensive system, two years in the strength and conditioning program, and of course two more years of maturity. He, Colin Porter, and Colin Tanigawa are going to be a very nice set of upperclassmen to have on the interior. During December bowl practices, Atoe - a native of The Dalles, Ore. - has been lining up at right guard, so he would presumably be backing up Porter.

OT Michael Criste (6-5, 280) – Criste can spend 2011 as a learning year, working behind Kelemete, Kohler, massive walk on Daniel Kanczugowski, and hopefully a somewhat healthier Skyler Fancher. In 2012 after Kelemete graduates, that will be Criste's time to step into the limelight. Hopefully by then he will tip the scales closer to 300. He's big enough to play tackle, but during the first few December bowl practices he was actually lined up at center, so that shows the versatility Criste possesses.

OT Micah Hatchie (6-5, 274) – In the action I saw last year, Hatchie looks potentially like the best left tackle prospect of the group. I can foresee the Husky bookend tackles in 2012 being Hatchie on the left and Kohler on the right. However in 2011, Hatchie should spend the time learning the position and backing up Kelemete. Dan Cozzetto wanted Hatchie badly out of high school, and ideally he'll get one more year to get bigger, faster and stronger before sliding in behind Kelemete as a three-year starter.

OT Ben Riva (6-6, 275) – Riva can spend 2011 getting bigger and stronger. He won't crack the depth until 2012 or 2013, but by then he should be at or near 300 pounds and ready to contribute at the tackle position.

OG Colin Tanigawa (6-3, 310) – I think he will wind up at center when all is said and done but with Drew Schaefer successfully making the move there last fall, and with Ikehara having trouble getting his weight over 265 pounds, Tanigawa seems like the heir apparent for the position in 2013, when he would be a junior. He should spend 2011 getting stronger and playing a back up role to the other interior players. For right now, Tanigawa is lining up at left guard during the December workouts, and UW Head Coach Steve Sarkisian praised the Pasadena, Calif. native. If he can compete for a starting spot next year, that could smooth the move of Kohler over to right tackle.

WR DiAndre Campbell (6- 2, 185) – With everyone returning from last year, Campbell can use 2011 as a learning year. Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar, James Johnson, Kevin Smith, and Cody Bruns are all ahead of him and Johnson is the only one that regressed from last year. He might see special teams time but it would be hard to envision him sneaking into the rotation, especially with true frosh Kasen Williams reporting in fall camp.

TB Deontae Cooper (6-0, 195) – Cooper was the best home run threat the Huskies had in their backfield until he tore his knee up. By all reports, his recovery is going fine and he should be ready to go by fall camp. Has he lost a step? That will be the question. If he retained his incredible straight-ahead speed, he brings a consistent break-away element to the tailback position that Chris Polk and Jesse Callier have only in spots.

QB Nick Montana (6-3, 191) – When fall camp begins in August of 2011, Montana will have had two springs, 15 bowl practices, and an entire redshirt year under his belt. So although he will be a redshirt freshman, he will have more experience than it might appear. His battle with Keith Price for the starting quarterback spot once Jake Locker graduates is the main one everyone will be watching in spring. People will be surprised at how strong Montana's arm is. He needs probably another 10 pounds of muscle on his frame, but he's got good size.

DE Andrew Hudson (6-3, 231) - Hudson needs more weight on his frame but he has a great motor. Look for him to move up into the two-deeps in 2011. I'd love to see what he could do at about 260 pounds. He should play more but he's not ready yet to produce at a consistent level.

LB Jamaal Kearse (6-2, 230) – I LOVE what this kid brings to the linebacking corps. He has speed and very good ball skills. I can't wait to see how much he improves over the summer. With a good spring and solid summer, I could see him fitting into the depth as an outside linebacker with the matriculation of Victor Aiyewa.

DT Lawrence Lagafuaina (6-0, 344) – It would've been nice for Lagafuaina to have gotten another year in the weight room to continue redefining his body. However with serious Apple Cup injury to Semisi Tokolahi, Lagafuaina is most likely going to be counted on to play some minutes and spell Sione Potoa'e, Alameda Ta'amu, and Chris Robinson. This spring and fall will be huge for that reason, as Lagafuaina has a very explosive first step.

DE/OLB Josh Shirley (6-2, 225) - Washington is attempting to make him into a pass rushing defensive end. I don't know if he'll ever be big enough to play out on the end unless it's a situational down-and-distance, but he sure seems like he'd make a solid inside linebacker. Perhaps once Cort Dennison graduates, Shirley will get a look there. I would like to see that, as his frame already looks about as filled out as it should be. I'm not sure how much bigger you'd want him to get.

LB Victor Burnett (5-11, 232) – Burnett is built solidly and should figure into the mix at either middle linebacker (MIK) or outside as a WIL. I think he will be right there in the 2011 depth, and redshirting in 2010 was a good move by the staff. He will be ready next season to contribute meaningful minutes.


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