Spring Snippet #4

In installment #4, my final one, I took a look at the defensive depth chart and tried to list what I would expect to see from each position both in terms of potential as well as scenarios where injury or attrition could occur. I also try to forecast when the team will be at relative optimal potential at each position.

Again, this series of articles was not meant to be the Gospel, nor am I speaking for anyone else on the staff at Dawgman.com. It is one person's informed opinion, influenced by what I saw and who I talked to at practice.

My opinion, you will often find, is different than, say, Kim Grinolds. God help me (and him) if we ever start thinking the same way. It is different than the fantastic duo of Scott Eklund and Chris Fetters, the crack journalists who are providing such a great detailed breakout by position in their series of articles.

It's probably different than a lot of message board posters out there that attended practice and came to their own conclusions. But I make no apologies for that.

As General George Patton once said, "If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn't thinking."

Thus, I have no problem having a different opinion than anyone else, and sincerely hope that it helps draw out more meaty discussions and provides more discourse for good lively debate.

I truly believe that this defense could be special. If the young linebacker troops round into shape sooner rather than later, Washington could very well finish in the upper third of the league in total defense. All of the components are there.

The Huskies are just beginning to reap the benefits of Sarkisian's second recruiting class, and with it come more speed and athleticism. When you combine those two things with a renewed passion and fun that has been instilled throughout the entire program, it can be a powerful synergy.

Nick Holt didn't trust his defense to play many of his schemes in 2009. Last year in the home stretch of the season, when some guys started to get healthy, he turned it loose a lot more and the results were there for everyone to see.

This team beat the living crap out of Nebraska – PHYSICALLY. That was probably the biggest thing to take away from the Holiday Bowl. That bowl game really helped this program turn the corner not only in getting the extra 15 practices, but in man-handling a traditional dominant program the way they did.

I realize that Nebraska didn't want to be there, but the Huskies still took advantage of the opportunity rather than meekly approach it with caution or squander it. They came, they saw, and they kicked their @ss.

If you are a concert goer, the music equivalent for the early Holt defenses would've been like going to see The Who cover a bunch of Todd Rundgren songs. So instead of Roger Daltry belting out, "We'll be fighting in the streets, with our children at our feel, and the morals that they worship, will be gone…", you'd seem him trying to croon, "Hello, it's me", or "But my feelings for you, were just something I never knew, ‘til I saw the light, in your eyes…". Somehow his microphone spins would lose a bit of effect, don't you think? Just think of Keith Moon's bombastic drum fills and double-bass drum attack being attempted by a lame Roland TR-707 drum machine. Or John Entwistle's dive-bombing bass runs being performed by an Apple MacIntosh.

In short, the personnel just wasn't right. It was a crappy show with good intentions.

Now I believe that Holt is dangerously close to being able to just about run the full gamut of his play book. I now look for the Huskies to play much more aggressively with their ears pinned back a greater portion of the game. Holt is about ready to do to defenses what Pete Townshend did to his Gibson SG at Woodstock….Play the HELL out of it and then DESTROY IT.

And now, onto the depth chart that will make this happen.

It is one of the better defensive lines that the Huskies will have lined up in the trenches for the better part of a decade. You love to have a great defense from the inside out, and the Huskies' strength of their stopping unit is most likely in the middle front, where Alameda Ta'amu appears poised to have a huge senior season. He was unblockable most of the spring and he will challenge for all-conference honors in 2011. Next to him will be Sione Potoa'e, a true sophomore who figures to have the kitchen sink thrown at him considering his inexperience. He would benefit greatly from the return of Semisi Tokolahi, a 6-2 300 pound junior from Hawaii who was just starting to come into his own before suffering a bad injury against WSU. Lawrence Lagafuaina is the other understudy that could add some big time snaps to the rotation. He is stout and pretty quick off the line, giving the Huskies another run stuffer inside. I envision Ta'amu and Potoa'e taking the major snaps though, and Lagafuaina would be the situational guy. If Tokolahi returns, he is versatile enough to spell both Ta'amu and Potoa'e.

On the flanks, the Huskies have even more depth available to them. Hau'oli Jamora is still a tad undersized but he gets it done more often than not. He is very productive while tipping the scales at only around 240. Opposite him is Everette Thompson, who is finally 100% healthy. He is a bit bigger than Jamora and is capable of playing inside as well. With Talia Crichton and Andrew Hudson also pushing, the talent pool is deep. Crichton and Hudson are quicker players. Hudson is only about 230 pounds but has the frame to carry much, much more weight. He is chiseled, and moves extremely well. He is one of those athletes that looks like every player on the University of Miami's defense from the early 1990s. Those guys were specimens, and Hudson is too. Just wait until he gets to about 250 pounds, he will be a terror.

And Josh Shirley changes the entire look of the defense. He is not big enough to really be an effective defensive end on running plays, but when it comes time to go after the quarterback, Shirley has proven to be as disruptive as an auditor to an Enron SEC filing. He uses his incredible speed to get up field and uses his guns that can hoist 400-pounds plus on the bench press to disengage or move his man backwards and into the backfield. His leverage is uncanny. I cannot wait to see this guy in action. He really does change the Husky defense, and Sarkisian illustrated as much by designating a special roster spot for him, titled "RUSH".

It is at linebacker where the Huskies have to find some answers. Cort Dennison will be at one spot and it sure looks like Garret Gililand has the other based on his smarts and flawless technique. From there, Washington needs at least two others to jump into the fray and prove that they belong when the bullets are live.

It could be a real log jam at that other spot, but the guy that really impressed me this spring is Jamaal Kearse. At 6-2 230, he is very active. He runs well and he seemed to always be in the right place. The other guy at his heels is John Timu, who is nearly as big and maybe even a little quicker. Timu is a pretty thick framed guy who loves to hit. Both of these guys could be real special teams terrors.

The other linebacker I believe that will put his nose in there at the outside spot is Princeton Fuimaono. He is undersized but undeniably has a knack for making things happen. He will also be featured on special teams. Cooper Pelluer also played a lot on special teams last year and he is bigger than all but Kearse in the linebacking corps. However the injury that kept him out this spring put him behind. We will see if he can make up the ground.

There are two big question marks, but those are a lot of answers with serious potential for greatness in that equation. Still, they are variables until the clock starts rolling.

In the secondary, Desmond Trufant and Quinton Richardson are two solid cornerbacks ready to anchor the backfield. Richardson proved to be a real playmaker at the last half of the season and Trufant will be a three-year starter in 2011. True sophomore Greg Ducre adds great speed in the depth but he is pretty small. Antavius Sims, JC transfer, will be fun to watch if he is tried at corner. He is a freakish athlete at 6-2 and 200 pounds, and although he is going to take some schooling, his physical attributes cannot be taught. They are there and they will be on full display.

The safeties will be Sean Parker and Nate Fellner. Those two are solid. Both Fellner and Parker have good instincts for the ball when it's in the air, although neither guy is the fastest guy on the field. If they want to speed it up back there, they would likely insert Taz Stevenson, who has good jets. He seemed a shade ahead of Will Shamburger but they are listed as even with Parker heading into fall camp. Stevenson plays with a little more aggressiveness and maybe a little quicker than Shamburger. It is a nice three-person rotation that will all push each other to win the job opposite Fellner. Parker is probably the biggest hitter of the three, and is my favorite to win the job. Stevenson could be a nice nickel back option.

In closing, I think you will find Nick Holt much more comfortable putting pressure on his defense to execute in more pressure packages that leave less room for error. He has more guys that he trusts on his roster and he should start reaping the benefits in 2011.

I really think that by 2012, you will be able to look at the Husky defensive coordinator and send him a big THANK YOU for turning the Husky defense into a bunch of bad a$$es again.

"Meet the new boss....same as the old boss."
Spring situational grades by position:

Current DL situation: A
Future DL optimum: NOW (particularly if Tokolahi is healthy)

Current DE situation: B
Future DE optimum: 2012 (Jamora, Crichton, and Hudson will all be a year older and bigger)

Current LB situation: B-
Future LB Optimum: 2013 (Gililand, Fuimaono, Tutogi, and Pelluer will all be seniors while Timu and Kearse will be juniors)

Current CB situation: A
Future CB Optimum: NOW

Current S situation: B
Future S Optimum: 2012 (Fellner will be a senior, Parker, Stevenson, and Shamburger will be juniors, and James FRICKEN Sample will be established)
Spring Snippet #3
Spring Snippet #2
Spring Snippet #1

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