Gilliland's Versatility Leads To Playing Time

Once Garrett Gilliland arrived at Montlake last summer, the talented linebacker got to work learning two of the three linebacker positions and that paid off when he received his first start against Nebraska in the middle due to an injury. Now, he's playing outside and so far, he's showing why the coaches were so high on him as a prep at Orange Lutheran...

"It feels great," Gilliland said after a recent practice. "It's a blessing to be out there with the ones with Cort (Dennison) and whoever else is working at the SAM (strongside linebacker).

"It's a big responsibility, especially being a young linebacker like I am, so I just have to hold my own and try to compete along with the rest of the defense."

As a freshman, when he arrived, Gilliland was immediately put at the WIL (weakside linebacker) spot due to his high Football I.Q. and his underrated speed. However, when Dennison went down with an injury and couldn't play against Nebraska, the youngster was thrust into the starting role inside against one of the top teams in the country.

"Oh man, it wasn't good," Gilliland admitted with a bit of a chuckle. "I was swimming, but I just went out there and did the best I could.

"Mason (Foster) helped me a lot and the guys were all encouraging to me, but I feel so much further ahead now than I was then.

"I'm stronger, I know what I need to do, I know the defense a little better. I mean, you can't even compare where I was then to where I am now, honestly."

When he arrived, Gilliland weighed approximately 215 pounds and he said when he weighed in at the end of winter workouts he had added 10 pounds to his 6-frame.

"(Ivan Lewis) got after us," Gilliland said. "He pushes us hard and I feel like it's really paid off, at least for me.

"I'm stronger, I feel faster and I just feel like I'm ready physically to get out there and perform."

Moving back outside from playing predominantly inside during the season hasn't been that hard of a transition, although Gilliland said there are some differences.

"At MIK (middle linebacker), it's the more demanding position," Gilliland acknowledged. "You have to make the calls, make more adjustments, but I think the biggest difference is playing in space.

"Now I have a lot more responsibilities with coverages out in the flat and on (blitzes) and things like that, so it's a new position for me and I'm just trying to make sure I have my assignments down."

"That's where he started in the fall, so he knew it already," linebackers coach Mike Cox said about Gilliland's move from the middle to the weakside spot. "We switched things around after the start of the season last year. They are pretty similar positions and he needs to know both and with Princeton (Fuimaono) being down right now, just being able to get him a lot of reps will only help us down the road."

Gilliland said the success of the Huskies as the season progressed, finishing with four wins including a dominating Holiday Bowl win over the same Nebraska team that trounced the Huskies in the spring, has only spurred the players and coaches along this offseason and that they aren't looking back, only forward.

"It's an expectation thing; we've been there," Gilliland said. "Most of the guys around here have been around the coaching staff for a couple of years, so they know what the program is all about and what the coaches are looking for and what they want and what the expectations are and with the success we had last year, we want to build on it, so no one is resting on what we did last year. We all feel this is just the start of things for us.

"Coming in the year we did, after not winning a bowl game for eight or nine years, just tasting what it takes to win a bowl game, I just thinks that speaks to what all the older guys have gone through and how they've been through so much and now we have a taste of success.

"We're just learning from what they went though, but they don't talk about a lot of that stuff because who wants to talk about the past when we can look at our future and we think it's going to be nothing but up from here."

Cox also noted the competition level at the linebacker position and how thing promises to get even more competitive this fall saying...

"It's been really good competition and in the fall it's going to be even more competitive with Princeton and Cooper (Pelluer) in the fold. Johnny Timu is learning a new defense, but he does some nice things and Thomas Tutogi, he's learning too, it's all brand new and I'm sure they're frustrated because we haven't slowed down at all.

"We've put in the whole defense and they're coming along and learning and they get better each day, but I'm sure they're frustrated a little bit. When it's brand new to them, they don't play as fast because they're thinking right now, whereas some of the other kids have heard it for a year. Like with Cort, he knows this stuff as well as I do, so there's a good competition at all the spots.

"Tim Tucker needs to keep coming along and get a little faster. Hopefully out of this we create some depth which we haven't had the past couple of years and then as these guys get going it creates a lot of competition to see who gets on the field." Top Stories