Spring Preview: Linebackers

While several other positions have questions galore, the linebacker position has the experience and athleticism to be one of the better corps in the conference. Here's a quick look at what to watch for this spring and which players project as starters this fall and what players figure into the future for the Dawgs...

The Players

RS Sr. MLB Trenton Tuiasosopo (6-2, 250)%
RS Sr. OLB E.J. Savannah (6-1, 225)
RS Sr. OLB Joshua Gage (6-2, 226)
Sr. MLB Donald Butler (6-1, 242)
RS Jr. OLB Matt Houston (6-0, 232)
RS Jr. Fred Wiggs (6-1, 231)**
Jr. Mason Foster (6-1, 230)
RS So. Cort Dennison (6-1, 230)
RS Fr. Bradly Roussel (5-11, 215)
RS Fr. Kurt Mangum (6-0, 234)

** walk-on
% sixth-year senior

Returning starters: Savannah, Gage, Butler, Tuiasosopo and Foster have all started games over the past three years.

Key players lost: Chris Stevens

Projected depth chart heading into spring:

SLB: Foster; Dennison; Roussel
MLB: Butler; Tuiasosopo; Mangum
WLB: Savannah; Gage; Houston

The big question heading into camp:

Will Savannah pick up where he left off after missing the entire 2008 season?

Heading into spring of last year, it was believed that Savannah was headed for All-Conference recognition. As a sophomore in 2007, he notched 111 tackles and 14 tackles-for-loss, good enough to lead the Dawgs and finish eighth in the conference. However, the talented linebacker fell into Tyrone Willingham's doghouse and he never got out, missing all of spring camp and fall camp for various off-field problems that have never been specified.

Now with a new staff in place, Savannah has been given a second chance at realizing his vast potential.

When he's right mentally, Savannah is a heavy-hitter who has the speed and athleticism to rush the quarterback as well as pursue plays run away from him. At times he struggles to wrap-up, choosing to go for the big hit instead of the sure-tackle and it has resulted in some big plays, but more often than not he is a difference-maker for the Husky defense and he should be able to fit into the new scheme well because the focus will be on attacking, something that fits Savannah's style perfectly.

Keep an eye on…

Foster who finished second in the conference with 105 tackles and led the conference with 8.8 tackles per game.

The talented junior is a physical presence who has proven to be a leader both on and off the field as well as a sure-tackler. He runs well and can run and cover backs and tight ends as well as support the run.

His game doesn't really have any weaknesses and it should be fun to watch how he combines with Butler and Savannah to form what could be one of the better linebacker units in the conference.

The future…

Mangum is definitely the future at one of the linebacker positions. He's a physical presence and he should make a great special teams player this fall as he works into the linebacker rotation. With his size, he's probably a better fit at middle linebacker, but he could slide outside in a pinch.

Roussel is a player who still needs to put on some size, but he's got the instincts to be a solid player down the road.

In the last class, Federal Way's Andru Pulu, Narbonne's (Harbor City, Ca.) Tim Tucker and Grant's (Sacramento) Jordan Wallace are all players expected to come in and add to the depth and future of the linebacker corps.

Tucker is projected at either linebacker or fullback, so it remains to be seen where the coaches will ultimately decide to put him and with Pulu's size, he has a chance to grow into an end or even defensive tackle position, however he's been told by the coaches he will start out at middle linebacker.

Wallace was a late signee and he's the brother of former Husky and current Seattle Seahawks S C.J. Wallace. He was one of the top tackles in the state of California and he was the captain of a team that went 14-0 and won a state championship. Expect him to end up at strongside linebacker where he can use his speed and coverage-skills to replace Foster once he moves on.

The 2010 class already has two linebackers committed – Lakes OLB Darius Waters and Auburn OLB Chris Young – and both are big-time athletes who can make plays all over the field.

Expect Washington to take at least one more linebacker and they have their eyes on some studs in Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, Ca.) MLB Zac Stout, Farrington (Honolulu) MLBV.J. Fehoko and Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Ca.) LB Cecil Whiteside and there will be others they pursue as well.

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