Week Two Top Performers

SEATTLE - Now that the Washington Huskies are two weeks through fall camp, here's our assessment of the top positions/players on both sides of the ball, as well as special teams. There's some well-known names in the group, as well as some newcomers that have impressed.

Offense -
Tight Ends - Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been as advertised throughout camp. He's an instant mismatch wherever he goes on the field and catches everything around him. With ASJ resting on Saturday, Michael Hartvigson capably picked up the slack and had a very nice scrimmage. Hartvigson would have scored a couple touchdowns if it hadn't been for blown whistles and got open a number of other times. Add Evan Hudson - another big body with experience - to the mix and you have a position group that has certainly matched its high billing coming into camp.

No. 1 Offensive Line - The group of Micah Hatchie, Colin Tanigawa, Drew Schaefer, James Atoe and Ben Riva is really starting to gel. This group only has 41 total starts to their names (30 for Schaefer and 11 for Tanigawa), but that doesn't mean they haven't played a lot; Hatchie saw time in all 13 games last year, while Riva played in 10 and Atoe three backing up Colin Porter. Just in watching them it's clear the coaches want this group to get as much time building chemistry as possible. So far they've given the quarterbacks time to throw and are showing athleticism in the run game when it comes to opening some holes. They still have a long ways to go but don't be surprised if this group performs better than expected based on how they've done these last two weeks.

Jaydon Mickens - The frosh receiver looked spectacular in Saturday's scrimmage and is getting lot of work with James Johnson, Kevin Smith and Jamaal Jones being out. Mickens, from Dorsey High, is taking full advantage of his opportunities, showing a quick burst out in space and a knack for finding holes in the defense. His hands have been very good.
Defense -
John Timu/Evan Zeger - With the linebacking corps decimated with injuries big and small - not to mention a couple of players leaving the team - it's been up to players like Timu and Zeger to man up and handle their business - and they have. After arriving late to campus due to rehabbing a knee injury Timu has been an Iron Man and a rock in the middle of the defense for the Huskies. And Zeger, the converted safety from Las Vegas, has stepped in admirably when players like Nate Fellner, Scott Lawyer, Travis Feeney and Taz Stevenson have missed time in camp with various injury concerns. But he hasn't just survived, to paraphrase defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi. He has shown during the full pads practice that he isn't afraid to deliver a big hit when needed.

Josh Shirley/Talia Crichton - Arguably the most rock-solid part of the defense - along with Timu, Sean Parker and Desmond Trufant - Shirley and Crichton have been a bookend pair of defensive ends worth talking about - especially the re-emergence of Crichton, the senior from Lakewood, Calif. For a player that played in 11 games last year - including three starts - Crichton's four total tackles meant he was largely anonymous in 2011, for whatever reason. I find that hard to be the case going into 2012 based on his camp performances to date, because he has looked and played like a man possessed, like a man who knows this is his last year to make something happen. And Shirley, who along with Stanford's Chase Thomas is the leading returning Pac-12 sack artist, has shown no signs of slowing down his 2011 output. In fact he appears primed to eclipse last year's total of 8.5 sacks, but Crichton is determined to give Shirley a run for his money.

Shaq Thompson - Let's put his 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Saturday's scrimmage off to the side for a second; Scout.com's No. 1 safety for the 2012 class is focused on proving his worth immediately on the defensive end - and the number of injuries so far in camp has smoothed Thompson's path toward substantial playing time. As a defensive back being used closer to the line of scrimmage, Thompson appears to be picking up coverages quickly. Usually Justin Wilcox or Keith Heyward would have to literally move frosh around pre-snap to make sure they were in the right positions, but I haven't seen much of that with Thompson. As with every true freshman it's hard to know just how long they can play at a high level right out of high school - but at nearly 230 pounds Thompson has the look of a guy that can go the distance if required.

Sean Parker - His dunce cap play last week aside, Parker has done everything you'd expect a dominant strong safety to do in fall camp; produce big hits when the time is right, come up with interceptions in the middle of the field and also come up with TFL's when asked to blitz. The junior from Los Angeles has done all those things and he's also help mentor Shaquille Thompson through the first couple weeks of camp when installation is ongoing and the frosh is swimming in schemes and terminology. There's no reason Parker won't have a big season for the Huskies based on what he's done so far in camp.

Pio Vatuvei - The true freshman defensive end has emerged as a two-way threat during fall camp. He was a star in Patterson, Calif. doing the same thing but was recruited primarily as a defensive lineman. However, Steve Sarkisian has been impressed with the options Vatuvei gives him in UW's offensive 'jumbo' package - either as a running back, fullback, h-back or tight end. That versatility will certainly land Vatuvei some playing time this year, but it's not the main reason why. The main reason is because he's a potential difference-maker on defense. He's a big athlete that can play either inside or outside, depending on scheme and situation, and has shown that the stage isn't too big for him at all even at an early age.
Special Teams -
Travis Coons - The junior kicker from Mt. San Antonio College was lightly recruited because of his statistics, but Steve Sarkisian and Chris Sailer knew Coons could be the perfect replacement for Erik Folk. And so far through fall camp they have proven to be right. Coons, who was a long-range field goal specialist at Mt. SAC, is accurate from all areas of the field and also has a range that extends nearly 60 yards. Washington hasn't had a kicker with that kind of leg strength since John Anderson. If Coons continues to show the combination of power and precision he has so far through the first 14 days of camp, he will quickly become a fan favorite.

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