Player Spotlight - Talia Crichton

SEATTLE - Talia Crichton is smiling a lot these days. The senior defensive end from Lakewood, Calif. is enjoying his football again after a couple of seasons where injuries, namely to a knee, have robbed him some serious playing time. But the knee appears healthy, and the 6-foot-3, 252-pound Crichton is back to the physical terror he started out as in 2009.

Crichton won one of the defensive end jobs going into his second year, but six games in he suffered a knee injury that has been the bane of his existence since. It was during a 35-34 overtime win at home against Oregon State, but for Crichton the win was overshadowed by the damage done. He was hoping to play in the 2010 Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska, but re-injured the knee during practice and has never really been the same since, despite starting the first three games of the 2011 season.

But now Crichton is a full 18 months past the Oregon State injury, and seems to now be playing with the speed and strength that helped earn him valuable minutes as a true frosh in 2009.

Getting to the QB - It's hard to keep reliable statistics over the spring, especially from the defensive side of the ball because the quarterback isn't live, but Crichton - by my unofficial count - has at least one touch sack in each of Washington's first five spring practices in 2012. He joins Andrew Hudson and Josh Shirley as the three ends that have been causing headaches for the Huskies' makeshift offensive line.

Scouting Report - Crichton's game is all about raw athleticism and physicality - basically figuring out how to get a step on you and then exploiting that step with raw strength and explosiveness. He isn't going to necessarily beat QB's around the pocket like Shirley and Hudson have been able to do. His game is more about pinning the edge and not allowing ball-carriers an easy way around or through his zone. When he's at his best, he can pin his ears back with only one idea in mind - kill the quarterback. Because he's one of UW's bigger defensive ends, he's been used a bit inside as a 5 and 7-technique, depending on scheme and down and distance.

Things to work on - Obviously the biggest thing for Crichton at this point is to do everything he can to stay off the ground. All it takes is one cut gone awry for the senior to finish his Husky career on the bench (knock wood). Also, the bigger end constantly has to find that sweet spot between being relentlessly aggressive yet never losing leverage on his side of the ball to let ball carriers slip through without repercussions.

The Senior 'X' Factor - Crichton, along with defensive lineman Semisi Tokolahi, are the seniors along the UW defensive line. They are having to step up to show leadership, along with sophomore defensive end Hauoli Jamora and fellow sophomore Danny Shelton - the disruptive force in the middle that can alter games in the way Alameda Ta'amu used to for the Huskies. The seniors are going to be the 'X' factor this fall, and if Justin Wilcox can get steady production from Crichton and Tokolahi, it'll give him a ton of options when employing their new 34 attack. Crichton, in particular, will be key - because he's big enough to hold an edge inside, allowing the quicker rush linebackers and ends to wreak havoc in the opponent's backfield.

Quotable: "Steady Eddie right now. He's been consistent, he's been explosive. He's doing it in the run game, rushing the passer…we're moving him around much more than we ever have before and he's showing a willingness to do that as well." - Steve Sarkisian on Talia Crichton.
Talia Crichton speaks with the media

Competition - Talia has all sorts of competition from the younger crowd, especially bigger linemen like Sione Potoae, Jarett Finau and Taniela Tupou, and also rush ends like Connor Cree and Corey Waller, but the true value of Crichton's worth to the Washington defensive line lies in the fact that he spans a number of different body types, positions, and uses. He's a hybrid in the truest sense of the term, which allows him to flourish in whatever front Wilcox chooses - 34, 43, 50, odd or even - it really doesn't matter. If it's a three-man front, Crichton can be that bigger anchor that attracts double-teams inside, allowing the ends and outside 'backers a chance on beating their men one-on-one. In the odd front, Crichton has the size to move in snug against the nose guard and bull his way inside. He can also stand up at any spot inside, disguising his true intent pre-snap. It's that kind of versatility that's going to allow Crichton on the field as an every-down lineman in Washington's base defense, and having that kind of personnel will be critical against up-tempo teams like Oregon, teams that don't allow you to comfortably substitute down and distance. Top Stories