2002 Defensive Preview

Washington's defense was stung for over 110 points in their final two games last year. Most of the finger pointing, right or wrong, went directly at defensive coordinator Tim Hundley.

"We weren't very good," admits Hundley about those final two games.

He has no problem accepting blame from those that want to place it with him. "I didn't have one kid come up to me before any of those games and ask me if it would be OK if we got our butt kicked," said Hundley.

"You have 11 guys on the field, regardless of who's injured, and there should be a way to get it done. The guy that is responsible for getting it done is the defensive coordinator. That's part of the deal, I know it."

Hundley is excited to turn that around and finish strong in 2002. "We have willing coaches and very capable players. We have to get it done now. At the end of the year we were so unproductive. We learned a lot from that last game about things that could've been done. One play would have been good. When they spread you out, your chances of getting help aren't real good so sometimes you have to match people up and your guy has to make a play. On jump balls, someone has to get the ball and you'd like it to be you. Against Texas in the fourth quarter, it wasn't us."

Washington runs a 4-3 defense. The front four positions are split into inside and outside players. The two on the outside are "Husky" and "REB." The Husky lines up on the same side as the tight end and often faces a double team from the TE and the strong tackle. The REB lines up on the opposite side and usually faces the offensive weak tackle one on one. The interior positions are the "Nose Tackle" and the "Three Technique," and are often interchangeable. The NT lines up over the ball and plugs the two gaps on either side of the center while the 3-Tech lines up between the nose tackle and the Husky and plugs the middle and attempts to collapse it.

DE Manase Hopoi - photo by Kim Grinolds

Defensive Ends (Husky and REB)
"We're still in development stage at our (Husky) end position," said Hundley. "Manase Hopoi (6-3 250 sophomore) is there right now and Graham Lasee (6-5 250 RS-freshman) and Mike Savicky (6-4 250 RS-freshman) are behind him. We're going to take a look at a freshman there, some guys with a little more size and that have some ability."

Donny Mateaki (6-5 267) from Honolulu, Hawaii, will certainly get a long look at DE.

"We're going to give this guy a shot. In the world of 85 scholarships, we cannot let experience supercede ability. We'll try to give him enough looks during two-a-days to see if he can be a player for us right out of the gate."

That won't be a problem because Washington has no experience at the big end position. Hopoi, Lasee, and Savicky have yet to play a down of college football. If needed, Terry Johnson could be moved there. He has the speed and size to play there, but he is also the best interior defender on the roster.

"Hopoi has some things to learn but he's a competitive guy. He has to keep his motor running all of the time but he could be a very good player for us," adds Hundley.

"At the Rush End (REB), we're hoping that Kai Ellis will come back to where he was at the beginning of last year. He's really worked hard to get his leg strength back to where it needs to be. Anthony Kelley and Houdini Jackson are guys that are working behind him."

Ellis is still trying to rehab two surgically repaired knees and won't participate in two practices a day. "We'll be careful with him and do the right thing to give him the ability to be healthy," said Hundley.

DL Terry Johnson - photo by Kim Grinolds

Interior Defensive Line (NT and DT)
The starters appear set, if Terry Johnson is not moved. "Jerome Stevens and Terry Johnson are the listed starters but Josh Miller, Tui Alailefaleula, Tusi Sa'au, and Junior Coffin will all get time. If we move Terry to the Husky, it becomes even more important for those guys to be ready to go and compete. Competition is what we're looking for and what will make us better," said Hundley.

Sa'au is a 6-2 300-pounder from nearby Rainier Beach and was hampered last year with a foot injury that he suffered before the season. "Sa'au made some progress. He's a strong guy and it's time for him to play at the big boy level now. He certainly can do it."

Freshman Dan Milsten (6-5 265) will begin his Husky career as a nose tackle and will likely redshirt this season.

LB Joseph Lobendahn - photo by Kim Grinolds

Linebackers (SAM, WLB, and MIKE)
Washington has three linebackers in their defense, two inside and one outside. The two inside guys are called the "MIKE," who plays on the strong side, and the "WIL," who plays on the weak side. The MIKE must be able to take on fullbacks at the line and plug the holes, while the WIL is the glamour position in this defense. He should be fast, read plays well, and be able to tackle well. If the defense is on, the WIL will lead the team in tackles on a good day. The outside linebacker is called a "SAM" and lines up on the same side of the defense as the Husky end. They have the most coverage responsibility of the linebackers and should be fast.

Hundley calls this group "the heart of our defense."

Cornell Jackson is the new linebackers coach, replacing Tom Williams who left to accept a coordinator job at Stanford. "Cornell is a hard worker and a good man. He's great with our kids. You hate to lose guys like Tom but we replaced him with a quality guy. He's a good teacher."

This group is the most talented unit on the defense. So much that Hundley is trying to fit four starters into three jobs. It can't be done so the competition will be fierce this fall.

"Marquis Cooper (6-4 210 junior), Joseph Lobendahn (5-10 235 sophomore), Ben Mahdavi (6-3 244 senior), and Jafar Williams (6-0 230 senior) are our top four guys. We need to have the best three of those on the field and that's what we'll do. That's how we are going to address it to those guys, to not get comfortable that you are just playing MIKE or WILL. Instead the focus will be that you need to be one of the top three because if you are the fourth, you will be a back-up. We have two seniors there but that's just the way it's going to be. The best three will be starters, and then we'll have good back-ups behind them," said Hundley.

Lobendahn will play both inside positions. Cooper is a natural at WIL and was much more productive inside than when he played at SAM. Mahdavi, Tim Galloway (6-2 240 sophomore), and Lobendahn will all play the MIKE, and Williams, Tyler Krambrink (6-0 215 junior), and Ty Eriks (6-2 220 RS-freshman) will play SAM.

"We need to find up a back-up to Jafar Williams. Whether it's Eriks, Krambrink, or Scott White (6-2 235 freshman). We'll look at all of those guys in there. Tyler has the chance to play, he has starter ability. Eriks has only had four days at SAM but he works hard. We're anxious to see how it plays out."

Joseph Lobendahn jumped out as a potential terror on the inside this spring. Hundley noticed. "Now it's a matter of finding out how he'll best jump out, next to Cooper or next to Mahdavi. That is what we need to find out. Joseph is very productive."

SS Greg Carothers - photo by AP

Defensive Backfield (SS, FS, and two CBs)
"Roc Alexander (5-11 190 junior) coming back is big for us. We'll try to keep him as healthy as we can because you can't play this game with one shoulder. He's ready to go now. Sam Cunningham (6-0 190 sophomore) has really improved and Chris Massey (5-11 180 junior) has gotten a lot stronger this summer. Derrick Johnson (6-0 185 sophomore) is back. We'll be careful with him to make sure that his foot doesn't get pounded. Eric Shyne will need to improve this fall from last spring, but he's just a freshman. We always will look at a freshman at that position as well," said Hundley.

Of the incoming freshmen, Matt Fountaine (5-11 190) is a pure corner and will get a look.

At strong safety, Greg Carothers (6-2 205 junior) returns healthy after a year where both of his shoulders were banged up. "He needs to play better than he did last year and I know he can. He's healthy." Jim Newell (6-0 195 junior) will get the first look as the starting free safety. "We're not real deep at safety but we're better with Jimmy in there. James Sims (6-2 199 RS-freshman) did a nice job this spring and coach Hauck thinks he'll just continue to improve as we get going here. Evan Benjamin (6-0 200 RS-freshman) did a nice job this spring and is a tough guy. I think he'll be a good player, but he needs to be a good player FAST. We don't have the depth yet. Owen Biddle (5-10 190 senior) will be the fifth player back there. Domynic Shaw (5-11 210 junior) really worked hard this summer and he's more in the picture than he was after spring ball. Maybe he can help us a bit at safety."

Sims and Benjamin have had to grow up quickly because Washington lost both Donte Nicholson (academics) and Grady Sizemore (professional baseball) in the recruiting class ahead of them. Further depleting the depth at safety, neither DeMar Baisy nor Deshon Goldson made it into school this fall.

Sims hasn't played much football but he's proved to be a very quick study. "He's got a ways to go before we reach our Pac-10 schedule, so he's going to play. We just have to make sure he can do what we're asking him to do. Physically, he's very capable. And he's a great kid that wants to do well. Trust is a huge factor back there and if we give him the tools, he has the ability to get it done. I think he'll be fine," said Hundley of the young man from Las Vegas.

Newell is finally back to 100% after two years of various injuries and will provide some veteran leadership.

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