Now, for the third straight year, this squad needs new leadership. Look no further than Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria.
Victor told Dawgman.com's Chris Fetters back in the fall that they’re like Bonnie and Clyde. I like to think of them as Jekyll and Hyde.
Bierria is a confident, outspoken leader. Vocal on and off the field, he undeniably motivates everyone who shares the same field as him. Victor, on the other hand, is a little more silent. But ask any PAC-12 running back, and they’ll tell you that he’s as deadly as they come. As a tandem, the two seniors-to-be patrol the middle of the field with chemistry, experience, and skill. You’d be hard -pressed to find a better pair in the entire country. In what looks to be another fantastic defense, Victor and
Equally impressive could be the depth at inside linebacker. Ben Burr-Kirven and DJ Beavers played crucial roles in 2017, particularly when Victor was injured. Brandon Wellington got his feet wet last year, contributing on special teams and gobbling some reps on defense whenever possible. Sean Constantine will return from his ankle injury ready to make an impact as a senior. Camilo Eifler, after being locked in the weight room his first year on campus, looks to combine his impressive body with a solid spring showcase. Kyler Manu is another year bigger faster and stronger. The list seems endless and is full of talent.
The questions in the linebacker corps come on the outside. Joe Mathis and Psalm Wooching departed this winter, leaving the Huskies with two big holes to fill. Connor O’Brien manned the BUCK linebacker spot when Mathis was injured, with a little help from Benning Potoa’e. Tevis Bartlett was a stud as a backup in 2016, racking up nine tackles for loss, good for second most on the team. There are plenty of other Huskies that will be eager to make a good impression this spring and campaign for playing time in the fall. Let’s take a look at the linebackers that will report to duty this fall.
Linebackers (by year)
Azeem Victor (6-3, 222, Sr.)
Keishawn Bierria (6-1, 230, Sr.)
Connor O'Brien (6-3, 224, Sr.)
Sean Constantine (6-2, 231, Sr.)
Tevis Bartlett (6-2, 229, Jr.)
Ben Burr-Kirven (6-0, 221, Jr.)
Matt Preston (6-2, 230, Jr.)*
Jake Wambaugh (6-1, 221, Jr.)*
Benning Potoa'e (6-3, 270, So.)
Brandon Wellington (5-11, 223, So.)
DJ Beavers (6-0, 227, So.)
Kyler Manu (6-1, 233, So.)
Bryce Sterk (6-4, 256, So.)
Camilo Eifler (6-2, 219, RFr.)
Myles Rice (6-3, 243, RFr.)
Ryan Bowman (6-0, 267, RFr.)*
Projected Depth Chart
BUCK (weak side outside)
weak side inside)
SAM (strong side outside)
WHERE DOES THE POSITION GROUP STAND HEADING INTO SPRING
The most interesting storyline for the linebackers is who will emerge as the top BUCK. Connor O’Brien is an experienced senior who’s played in every game for the past two seasons and was essentially the starter for the second half of the year. Benning Potoa’e, on the other hand, oozes with potential. The former Scout 300 recruit has the body, the strength, and the speed anybody would want in a pass rusher. When I think of Potoa’e, I think of his big play in the Apple Cup; he notched a tackle on fourth and goal during one of Washington’s goal line stands, preventing the Cougars from getting in the end zone. Now that he has a redshirt year, 13 games, and a start under his belt, we’ll start to see if he can make big plays like that consistently.
I’m curious to see where other outside linebackers fit in the pecking order as well. Tevis Bartlett should have the SAM position on lock after a solid sophomore season. One guy behind him in the seating chart I can’t wait to see is
Another name that provides some intrigue is Bryce Sterk. The redshirt sophomore stands 6’4” and tips the scale at 254 pounds. That’s a big boy. He’s also a mover. Sterk was a successful track runner in high school, finishing second in the 2A state 4x400 championship. He definitely looks the part of a fantastic pass rusher.
Also watch for local product
Not only is the linebacker room occupied by two of the unquestioned leader on this defense, but it’s full of talented players ready to get their turn. The depth at every position is a true testament to the job the coaching staff has done at building the program. This corps of linebackers will serve as the nucleus of a defense that looks to repeat the success of seasons past.