Post-Spring Top-40: 10-6

SEATTLE - There were a ton of great stories and great performances coming out of Spring Football for the Washington Huskies, and now it's time to take roll call. Who had the best spring? Who made the biggest jumps? counts down the top-40 from Spring Football, five players at a time. Yesterday was 15-11; now we've reached the Top-10.

10 - Andrew Hudson - Hudson's development as an eventual starter is right on track; he redshirted two years ago and last year he played in all 13 games, starting two - and in the Alamo Bowl he had a sack and forced a fumble. Now in 2012 the 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end is set on competing for a starting spot along UW's defensive line - and although new Defensive Coordinator Justin Wilcox has dismantled Nick Holt's 4-3 defense and instilled an odd front, meaning players like Hudson will be asked to play a number of gaps along the defensive line. He came into Spring Football flying as he was one of the first players talked about by Steve Sarkisian in terms of coming straight out of the gate competing and working at a high level - and that energy level never waned. Hudson's playing time will probably be determined by Hauoli Jamora's recovery more than anything, but Hudson has put himself in a position as an invaluable contributor along the defensive line - a player that can hold up an edge as well as provide a strong rush presence from the strong side of the ball.

9 - John Timu/Princeton Fuimaono - While Washington did make an important bowl game in 2011, the 445 points they surrendered last year was only second-worst all-time in Husky history. The 463 points conceded during UW's record-setting 0-12 season will (knock wood) never be repeated, but after they gave up 67 points and 777 yards to Baylor, it was clear something needed to be done. The linebackers of that defense - Cort Dennison, John Timu, Princeton Fuimaono, Garret Gilliland and Jamaal Kearse - had their moments of brilliance, but it was widely known going into last season that the senior Dennison was going to have to be the anchor, and at the same time he would also have to be there to help the freshmen that were next to him, typically Timu and Fuimaono. Now that those two have been through the trials and tribulations of a campaign where they were literally thrown into the fire, they are now considered veterans. Two major changes - Justin Wilcox at defensive coordinator for Nick Holt and the 34 scheme Wilcox brought with him from Tennessee - along with the addition of new Linebackers Coach Peter Sirmon, have moved the play of Timu and Fuimaono to the fore, and they responded this spring by adjusting well to the new schemes and techniques being asked of them. How quickly that translates to their play on the field this fall will tell a lot about how well Wilcox's philosophy has taken root.

8 - Drew Schaefer - The future of Washington's offensive line was a huge focus of Spring Football, especially after the news came out that Colin Porter would have to retire due to degenerative shoulders. With Senio Kelemete, Nick Wood, and Skyler Fancher graduating, numbers along the offensive line really started to dwindle. Granted, there's going to be six incoming lineman this fall, but that doesn't help much when you're trying to get your work don't in the spring. Erik Kohler would have to go through April a bit gingerly, recovering from what was described as 'nagging off-season stuff from the grind of playing an entire season'. With only eight scholarshipped linemen available for Spring Football (and guard Siosifa Tufunga was ruled out of Spring Game with a broken hand), having a healthy and working center was vitally key. With Drew Schaefer - Dan Cozzetto, Eric Kiesau and Steve Sarkisian have put all their trust and belief in the 6-foot-4, 287-pound senior to be that rock in the middle, the quarterback of the offensive line. And outside of a couple of practices where he was nursing a knee ding, Schaefer held up to the responsibility. The importance of keeping Keith Price upright cannot be overstated, and the same should be said for Schaefer's health. With depth at precariously thin levels, making sure the veterans play the entire season has to be Sarkisian's number-one objective. Schaefer being lost to injury would be akin to losing Price, because then you'd be placing the snapping and communication at the feet of either a veteran with no live snapping experience (Kohler), or a complete newcomer (Michael Criste).

7 - Josh Shirley - Shirley came to Washington under a cloud of scrutiny but has survived shifting skies to emerge as one of the Huskies' real rock stars on defense - and that's why he was worth the risk. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound sophomore defensive end committed to three schools during the recruiting process, eventually signing with UCLA - but was withdrawn from summer school and denied admission for the fall after it was determined Josh was one of three true freshmen involved with the theft of a fellow student's backpack. Shirley was one of the real disappointments coming out of Washington's 2010 class; Sarkisian and his staff poured their souls out to try and lure the Fontana, Calif. native to Seattle, yet to no avail. But with UCLA no longer an option and USC backing off their own pursuit of Shirley, it appeared a match had been made - with stipulations. After telling the media they had done their due diligence, Shirley was allowed to enroll at UW - most likely with a short leash. Shirley has paid back Washington's faith in them, and then some, coming up with 8.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in 2011. The 8.5 sacks tied Shirley with Stanford's Chase Thomas as the Pac-12's top sackmaster. He's gained 15 rock-solid pounds since coming to Montlake, and after every camp appears to be even bigger, stronger, faster and fiercer than ever before. During Spring Football, Shirley was a constant pain in the side going up against UW's struggling offensive tackles, and under the tutelage of new DL Coach Tosh Lupoi expect Shirley to take his game to the next evolution - which means his ability to be an every-down player.

6 - Desmond Trufant - Ever since finding a starting spot early in his true freshman season, Desmond Trufant's career at Washington has been based around the word consistency. But in all those years of being the man on an island, Trufant has never really been blessed with the trappings that usually comes with such consistent play, namely awards. He was an honorable mention All-Pac-10 pick in 2009 and again when the conference moved to 12 teams - but nothing much more than that despite arguably coming up with the most important play of the 2011 season; an interception in the end zone against Eastern Washington's Brandon Kaufman to preserve the Huskies' first win of the season - the game that proved to be the difference in UW becoming bowl-eligible. During his 35 consecutive starts, Trufant has played alongside Quinton Richardson, Adam Long and Greg Ducre - and this year there's a chance he could play alongside the likes of Marcus Peters, Tre Watson, Anthony Gobern, or one of the true freshman corners. The combo of Trufant and Richardson was supposed to be the one to come good last year, especially with Richardson showing glimpses of finally becoming that second player the Huskies staff could put out there on the edge with complete trust. But like the rest of Richardson's career at Montlake, his abilities to pair up with the capable Trufant turned out to be nothing but a painful tease, an exercise on how far one player could come without fully realizing his capabilities. And it's much less than what Trufant deserved, but this April became a bit of a turnaround in the sense that all the cornerbacks were given a new lease on life; Justin Wilcox, Keith Heyward, and Donte Williams came at Spring Football with new thoughts, new techniques, new schemes - in short, a whole new way of doing business at cornerback. And that's not just what Trufant needed to push forward in search of those honors that have eluded him up to this point, but also for the group to find their leaders and ones that would step up in the crunch. The UW cornerback crew has had a total of nine interceptions in the three years Trufant has been a starter; their goal should be nine this year. And with the new coaches showing them and building up their confidence along the way - I wouldn't doubt them from reaching that goal.
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