MVP No. 5 - The spine and the fury

It’s countdown time! A new feature at, we’re going to ascend daily toward who we perceive to be the most important player to Washington’s success, revealing a new name every day. Today it’s time to start unveiling our top-5, and what better way to do it than talk about a player that not only brings the hammer, but brings it often.

If one was so inclined, they could put together a big hit highlight reel for Azeem Victor that would be at least five minutes long. And it wouldn’t be just for defense. He’s also laid out his fair share of returners too. 

In just one year’s time, Victor went from being a bright backup to John Timu in 2014 to forging his own path in a big way last year, leading the team in total tackles with 95, including nine tackles for loss. 

Once as big as 240 pounds, Victor has leaned out and kept his sideline-to-sideline speed. He is literally the center of attention on nearly every play, and was the beneficiary of a great Washington defensive line last year. They kept Victor uncovered, which allowed him to hurt people. 

His role as a tone-setter on offense is becoming the stuff Washington fans will talk about for quite a while. His sack of Cody Kessler on the first play from scrimmage versus USC gave everyone a glimpse of just how uncomfortable the Husky defense was going to make life for the Trojans. And the next play he nearly de-cleated USC running back Tre Madden. 

That’s just one example where the 6-foot-3, 227-pound Victor has imposed his will physically from the start. And by doing that, it just builds the confidence of the guys around him, which allows the defense as a whole to play fast, physical football. 

But all that aggression comes with a downside. Sometimes he has gotten a bit too physical, and the late hit and targeting call later in that USC win - while certainly debatable - cost Azeem a start against Oregon. 

Who knows if the result of the Oregon game would have gone differently if UW had had its enforcer available from the opening kick. One thing is clear: if Victor can harness his reputation as a player that loves to lay the lumber to the point where he doesn’t miss any starts in 2016 because of it, the Huskies will be that much better.

It’s doubly important Victor stays in games because, like 2015 when his backup was Scott Lawyer, the Huskies don’t have any real proven thumpers behind him. Players like Sean Constantine and Ben Burr-Kirven are certainly capable backups, and we don’t yet know how physical the two true freshmen - Camilo Eifler and Brandon Wellington - will be from the beginning of the Washington careers. 

So it’s vital Victor lead from the front, and lead by example, something he did extremely well in his first season as a starter. But the  experience gained from year one to two should help him avoid personal foul calls in the future. It’s just a matter of judgment, as as Azeem’s judgment improves, his play will tick up another notch. 

And that’s a very scary thought for the rest of the Pac-12.

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