Post Spring Wrap: The Defense

Following the Spring Game on Saturday, Defensive Coordinator Tim Hundley talked about how he thought the defense was coming along and where it might be this fall. As a unit, the defense looked very solid considering the youth in the secondary that was employed, due to injuries to Greg Carothers, Roc Alexander, Jim Newell, and Chris Massey.

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Hundley felt that some players had made definite progress, but still saw areas where the Dawgs need to improve on in order to be ready for Michigan in late August.

The defensive line was one such area.

"We need to get better up front, that is no secret. I liked the way the young guys played there this spring. Guys showed up, like DE Manase Hopoi (6-3 250 soph), DT/DE Terry Johnson (6-4 270 jr), and DT Josh Miller (6-2 272 jr)," said Hundley.

"Hopoi has a great motor. It would be nice to count on him to be able to play. Johnson is a guy with real good skills. He runs a 4.8 40-yard dash, and that's where we want everyone on the line to get."

The only drawbacks to Hopoi are inexperience and strength. Both of those will come, however. He was outstanding in the final scrimmage, coming up with three tackles for loss on the same drive.

Hopoi's emergence may allow Hundley and defensive line coach Randy Hart more flexibility on their rotation.

"We need to look at the defensive end position whether Hopoi will be the starter or Terry Johnson will move out there and make Hopoi a great backup in the spot. We'll evaluate that on film. Ideally I'd like Terry at tackle with Manase at end," said Hundley.

"I'd like to see Tui Alailefaleula get more physical, and Josh Miller to get more flexible. Junior Coffin needs to improve his two-to-three steps of quickness to six-to-seven steps. We'll work on him with his 20-yard dash to improve that."

Help is also on the way from Hawaii. Incoming freshman Donny Mateaki could garner immediate playing time if he arrives in shape and learns quickly.

"I see Donny coming in as a big end. He's 6-4 or 6-5. He's been well coached and taught good technique at his high school," said Hundley.

Mateaki, the last time we spoke, weighed in the 270-pound range.

At the small, or "REB" defensive end, projected starter Kai Ellis (6-4 250 sr.) sat out almost all of spring with pain in his knees. Hundley hopes that he'll get back to the field this fall.

"We know what kind of kid Kai is. He works as hard as you want him to. He does have a redshirt season available, but he wants to play. That was the case last year as well. I'm confident that everything will be okay and that he'll be available in the fall. When he builds his lower half, he'll be able to balance out his strength and do a lot of good things. Currently Kai is at 250 pounds, and we'd like to see him get up to about 260 by the fall."

Looking at the secondary, where coach Bobby Hauck was forced to play multiple players that have yet to set foot on the field during a collegiate football game, some gems emerged. Hundley was particularly high on Redmond, Washington product Evan Benjamin (6-0 200 RS-fr), and Las Vegas, Nevada native James Sims, Jr (6-2 195 RS-fr).

"Evan played injured and did a good job. He proved that he's capable of playing even if it's a bit before his time. And Sims is bright, athletic, and he also played hurt. All these things are plusses for him. James has really come a long ways. He's very athletic and very smart. If you could see how much he's improved on his footwork from the time he came in here it's like night and day."

Hundley loves Sims work ethic, adding, " If he doesn't get it done, you still know he's giving you his best shot."

While it's almost a given that Greg Carothers (6-2 205 jr) will be the starting strong safety when fall rolls around and he's healthy, the free safety spot is a bit more open. Hundley feels that Jimmy Newell (6-0 195 so), who didn't participate in the spring game, probably has the edge going into the summer.

"(Newell) would be our number one guy heading into the fall. Jimmy looked great in all the workouts. He's very athletic and it's going to be his job to continue to get stronger and stay healthy."

The inside linebacking corps of Joseph Lobendahn (5-10 225 so) at the weakside (WIL) and Tim Galloway (6-2 235 so) on the strongside will be bolstered by the return of Marquis Cooper (6-4 210 jr) and Ben Mahdavi (6-2 235 sr) in the fall. Coaches feel that Mahdavi will most likely be back in the starting rotation once his shoulder heals up. "We know what he can do. We want him healthy for fall so we sat him out this spring, but he suited up and went through every drill he could. He's a team guy," said new linebackers coach Cornell Jackson of Mahdavi.

On the outside, linebacker Jafar Williams (6-0 223 sr) has shown himself to be 100% healthy and was all over the field this spring. He's going to be a huge addition to the Husky defense in 2002. So will Anthony Kelley, who took this spring to hit the books and graduate by the end of this quarter so he can return to the football team in the fall. He'll play defensive end.
POSSIBLE TWO-DEEPS FOR FALL CAMP, STARTERS IN BOLD:

DEFENSIVE LINE
DE Manase Hopoi 6-3 250 soph
DE Graham Lasee 6-5 250 freshman-RS
DT Terry Johnson 6-4 270 junior
DT Josh Miller 6-2 275 sophomore
NT Jerome Stevens 6-1 285 junior
NT Tui Alailefaleula 6-4 295 sophomore
REB Kai Ellis 6-4 250 senior
REB Anthony Kelley 6-3 240 senior

LINEBACKERS
MLB Ben Mahdavi 6-2 235 senior
MLB Tim Galloway 6-2 235 sophomore
WIL Joseph Lobendahn 5-10 225 sophomore
WIL Marquis Cooper 6-4 210 junior
SAM Jafar Williams 6-0 223 senior
SAM Ty Eriks 6-2 220 freshman-RS

SECONDARY
SS Greg Carothers 6-2 205 junior
SS Evan Benjamin 6-0 200 freshman-RS
FS Jim Newell 6-0 195 junior
FS James Sims, Jr. 6-2 195 freshman-RS
CB Derrick Johnson 5-11 196 sophomore
CB Chris Massey 5-11 180 junior
CB Roc Alexander 5-11 190 junior
CB Sam Cunningham 5-11 180 sophomore

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