Five Players Who Made Moves: Defense

Now that spring practice has ended, we thought we would take a look at some of the players that grabbed our attention over the past month of workouts and who could have played their way into the two-deeps. Today, we take a look at five defensive players who made moves and how they fit into the grand scheme of things heading into the summer...

DL Connor Cree - Listed at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, the UW coaches last week said that Cree is closer to 265 and could probably continue to get bigger if needed. Much like Andrew Hudson's ability to find playing time either inside or outside, the former Skyline Spartan has shown a lot of versatility over the spring and could play at either the bigger defensive end spot or even at the 3-technique spot in quicker formations to handle clear passing situations. The Sammamish sophomore has the length and angularity to really cause problems coming around the edge, as well as a keen ability to find the cracks between guards and tackles without getting washed out in the attempt. One of the surprising aspects of Cree's game is that he hasn't lot an ounce of speed or athleticism. He's definitely bigger than he prepped on the Plateau but the added bulk hasn't slowed him down. Should Cree continue to get bigger, faster and stronger this summer there's no doubt in my mind that he'll find his place at the defense's table once the games get going, a place that should include substantial playing time especially if the injured linemen expected to return - Hauoli Jamora, Lawrence Lagafuaina, Pio Vatuvei - don't make it back to 100 percent fitness. And you have to assume that even if all three injured Huskies do return to play they aren't going to be fully fit the first game of the season - especially given the breakneck pace the defense has played at in an attempt to keep up with the Huskies' newfound up-tempo, no huddle offense. That means healthy players like Cree along the defense line are going to be at a premium to perform. If Cree keeps at it the way he did this spring playing time won't be an issue.

LB Scott Lawyer - Lawyer laid down his version of 'The Law' during Saturday's Okie Drill (or Gauntlet Drill, if you prefer) at Washington's Spring Game, burying a couple of ballcarriers and imposing himself physically. During the scrimmage periods the 6-foot-2, 223-pound San Jose sophomore displayed quickness and a nose to the ball in tracking down running backs behind the line of scrimmage. Still far from being the finished item Lawyer has really benefitted from Travis Feeney's spring absence, as well as the move of senior Taz Stevenson back to safety. While senior Princeton Fuimaono had a stranglehold on the strong-side linebacker spot while Feeney rehabbed a shoulder injury, Lawyer was Bobo's deputy, ably stepping in when the senior needed a breather. With the offense rolling out 130-plus plays per practice, the linebackers really had a chance to get their work in. Lawyer was arguably the biggest beneficiary of the lot as he will be expected to contribute now in his third year on campus. Just based on his work during practice and in the Spring Game, Lawyer's learning curve is ramping up nicely - as is the linebacker group as a whole under of tutelage of Peter Sirmon. Playing against a multitude of spread attacks in 2013, Washington will need to rotate their fair share of defensive players in order to stay fresh and keep their speed about them. Lawyer is one of the linebacker that has the heft to battle inside with the big boys but still has the sideline-to-sideline burst required to contain read zone runs that bounce outside.

DB Travell Dixon - Whenever a team picks up an Alabama transfer, expectations go through the roof. Such was the case for Dixon, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior from Miami - by way of Eastern Arizona College and that small SEC program in Tuscaloosa - but Husky fans need to temper those expectations just a little bit despite mouth-watering vitals. One of the reasons Dixon left the Tide was because he never found comfort in how the Alabama coaches were using him; that hasn't been a problem at Montlake. Dixon started out at cornerback last fall and that continued through the spring. He's a bigger corner in the mold of Richard Sherman (even down to those iconic dreads hanging out the back of his helmet). He flashed some Sherman-esque aggressiveness at times but he'll need to consistently deliver to beat out the likes of Greg Ducre and Marcus Peters for significant playing time this fall. But isn't it nice to know that Washington is starting to get to the point under Steve Sarkisian where a former Alabama player hasn't just waltzed into the starting lineup? On the contrary, Dixon has had to work tooth and nail alongside rising freshmen to make sure his spot in the two-deeps is secure. There's no question Dixon should be a contributor in time; his ability and physical stature demand it. This spring has been one where the southerner has acclimated himself to Pac-12 ball and the rigors of playing versus high-octane attacks. As long as he continues to work hard under the guidance of Keith Heyward, Washington fans should see more and more of Dixon as the 2013 season progresses.

DB Cleveland Wallace - Wallace is a pup, and as such he's still in that phase all babes go through - imitation. Case in point; during the end of spring practices the number-one cornerbacks - Ducre and Peters - really got in the receivers' grills, often continuing colorful dialog with their offensive counterparts well after the whistle had blown. Seeing Peters chat up Kasen Williams, for example, brought back shades of some classic verbal jousts between Desmond Trufant and Jermaine Kearse. Wallace, the 5-foot-11 redshirt frosh from San Jose clearly appeared to be bigger this spring than the 165 pounds listed on gohuskies.com, and he had to show his teammates that he could brag and boast with the best of them. During one play during last Thursday's practice versus Williams the defensive back came up with a nice play on the ball that put the big receiver down on the turf. Wallace couldn't contain his glee in besting his elder and let him know about it - prompting Williams to summarily take the football and launch it toward the barricade between the east field and Husky Stadium. It takes a lot to rattle the customarily cool Williams, but Wallace clearly hit a soft spot with his play - as well as his verbal repartee. Wallace, along with Dixon, are two players that have solidified their spots as capable backups to Peters and Ducre this spring. The best part in seeing a prospect like Wallace continue his development the last two months is that the ability is evident. The Huskies aren't just putting in bodies anymore because they don't have options - and Wallace is a clear example of that. His best football is still well ahead of him, but he's not out of place in the two-deeps on this Pac-12 roster - and that's a nice change of pace from years' past.

DB Brandon Beaver - With a last name Beaver I'll never know why he wasn't a shoe-in for Oregon State, but big things have been expected of Brandon Beaver ever since he stepped foot on campus last fall. The 6-foot, 181-pound defensive back from Compton, Calif. was considered so talented coming out of Dominguez High School that many were surprised he didn't play in 2012. But a redshirt year and a move from corner to safety has found Beaver in position to play a lot this coming campaign, especially with the lack of experienced depth with the graduation of players like Justin Glenn and Anthony Gobern, as well as the move of former safeties like Feeney and Evan Zeger to linebacker. Right now the starting safeties are set with Sean Parker and Will Shamburger, but Beaver and two other converted seniors - Taz Stevenson (from linebacker) and Tre Watson (from cornerback) seem to have shored up the depth. That should give the UW coaches the leeway to redshirt true frosh Trevor Walker, who came to Montlake early as an insurance policy. With his ability to cover receivers out on the edge, Beaver brought a coveted skill set to the safety spot - especially with the idea that Washington is going to be playing a fair number of spread-related offensive philosophies this fall. His knack for adding another capable cover in extra DB sets (nickel, dime, penny, etc…) will justify Beaver's worth, and his work this spring has only reinforced that opinion. The moment Beaver sees the field officially for the first time in purple and gold will come sooner, rather than later. Like Dixon, Beaver's size, skill set and natural instincts cry out for playing time.


Dawgman.com Top Stories