D Question Is...
The big question for everyone coming into the 2012 season was the defensive side of the ball and it wasn’t just the players under fire it was the coaches too. After giving up seven hundred and seventy seven yards of offense against Baylor in the Alamo Bowl coach Steve Sarkisian fired Nick Holt, Mike Cox and Jeff Mills.
The firing of those three guys made way for the new staff of Justin Wilcox (Defensive Coordinator), Peter Sermon (Linebackers), Keith Heyward (Defensive Backs) and mega recruiter from Cal Tosh Lupoi (Defensive Line). Wilcox and Sermon came from the University of Tennessee, where the helped turn the Vols defense into a top 25 defense. They both are Oregon grads where the played football together and Wilcox was at Boise St. with Chris Peterson during the Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma. Peter Sermon is they one a lot of Husky fans so be excited about because he turned the Vols linebacker corps into a good unit and most them where transplants. Heyward came from Oregon St. where he has helped coach several guys for the defense back and safety positions into the NFL. Lupoi came from Cal where he was known as a mega recruiter and was named recruiter of the year just a couple years ago by scout.com. He also has coached several guys on the defensive line unit at Cal into the NFL.
The new coaches came to Montlake with youth, energy and buzz and it showed on and off the football field, but one of the big reasons that they were hired was for their prowess in the recruiting world and it showed dividends when they landed mega recruit Shaq Thompson during signing day in February. With Shaq coming to Washington I think it helped ease some of the pain of not signing big blue chip guys that where in state like Josh Garnett and Zach Banner. Don’t get me wrong Husky fans wanted those guys bad but adding someone who will automatically make your defense better in Shaq Thompson isn’t a bad consolation prize. New Husky defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox came in from the beginning and said that this defense will be a freshman friendly defense meaning it won’t be too complicated and also the also said they will run a base 4-3 and 3-4 defense at times. It was to hard to tell during the spring how good the defense really was because the Huskies were showing their base defenses and offenses but with that said Sarkisian noticed that his defense was getting better. Sarkisian said he did notice that guys on the defensive side of the ball were flying around a lot faster, were staying home with their assignments and playing a lot tighter. We will get our first taste of the coaches and schemes this weekend against San Diego St.
Gone is Alameda Ta ‘amu due to graduation and he is now playing with the Pittsburg Steelers. Also not fully recovered and should be back soon is Hau'oli Jamora which will boost the front line. The coaches had high hopes Jamora would start the season healthy and ready to play but has some set backs this fall. The coaches also hoped he would help clog the middle and cause lots of trouble for the offensive line. Ta’amu on the other hand leaves a giant hole and I mean that literally, but the good news is Guys like Danny Shelton and Semisi Tokolahi are ready to fill in. It’s Danny Shelton though who will get the start on Saturday against the Aztecs. Danny played in all thirteen games last season at tackle for the Huskies earning a starting spot in the Apple Cup. Shelton played as a true freshman last season but looking at him you would never guess that being that he is six foot one and three hundred and seventeen pounds. Shelton will start at the nose tackle position this year with Semisi behind him. The Defense end spot will see Talia Crichton and Andrew Hudson this season. Talia a senior saw action in eleven of the thirteen games and had a pretty good game against Hawaii with a force fumble and two recorded tackles. Sophomore Andrew Hudson played in all thirteen games for the Huskies and started in two of them against USC and Oregon St. Talia posted three tackles, including a sack, and forced a fumble in the Alamo Bowl vs. Baylor, a season-best four tackles at Oregon State, and three tackles, including one and a half sacks, in the Apple Cup win over Washington State. This is the unit with the most to prove and if they give a lot of push it will free up a lot of sacks for guys like Josh Shirley who will be put in the game as a pass rusher.
Gone is Cort Dennison who graduated but the good news is guys like John Timu Princeton Fuimaono and converted linebackers in Travis Sweeney, Shaq Thompson (at times) and Nate Fellner (when healthy) will boost this unit. John Timu was voted by his teammates as one of the defensive captains this season and he is only a sophomore, which tells you how much respect his teammates have for him. Timu played in twelve of the Huskies thirteen games and started in eight of them. So even though he is an underclassman he is one of the veterans of the group. The other veteran is Princeton Fuimaono who is a junior this year and played in all thirteen games for the Huskies last season. His best game of the year was in the Apple Cup were he notched nine total tackles, including four tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. The other guys you will see our Travis Sweeney, Shaq Thompson and Nate Fellener who are all converted safety’s playing linebacker to help give some depth and help in the nickel and 3-4 defense the Huskies will be playing in this year. Don’t worry Husky fans Shaq will still play some safety though he just so talented the Huskies want him on the field wherever they can put him.
This is by far the most experience and probably the strongest unit of the defensive side of the ball. We will start with senior cornerback and four year starter Desmond Trufant. This kid has all the talent like his brother to play in the next level. Desmond was an honorable mention last season in the Pac 12 and this year and lots of people are predicting he could be a first teamer. He also had the game-winning pick against Eastern to seal the Eagles fate. Next is Cornerback Tre Watson who sat out last season because he transferred from Central Washington University. He beat out Greg Ducre by impressing the coaches this fall and spring. At Safety it will be Will Shamburger or Justin Glenn and Sean Parker. Will Shamburger played in eleven of the Huskies thirteen games (all but WSU and Baylor), starting four at one safety spot and served as a game captain for the Stanford and Oregon games. Justin Glenn played in all thirteen games, starting five at one safety position and posted fifteen tackles, most by any Husky in the regular season, in the Nebraska game. Sean Parker was a surprise get for most Huskies fans because he choose the Huskies at the last minute on signing day in 2009 which was Sarkisian’s first class. Parker played in all thirteen games including season-high fifteen tackles in the Alamo Bowl vs. Baylor which was one of his best games last season. Last but not least is Shaq Thompson. There hasn’t been this much Hype about a player in a while and watching video of this kid makes you think he is going to live up to the hype. Thompson is listed as six two two hundred and fifteen pounds which is a big safety. He has the speed and height to help pick off a lot of passes and he has since he stepped on campus at Washington during practices. He was committed to Cal but when Tosh Lupoi jumped ship so did Thompson. Thompson was the number one safety coming out of high school last year and helped land Steve Sarkisian another top 25 recruiting class. I think this unit will be the least of Husky fans worries this season.
This year for the first time under Steve Sarkisian we have a new kicker and it is Travis Coons who transferred from Mt. San Antonio College in California. Gone is Erik Folk the folk hero who helped beat a ranked USC team twice while at Washington. Also gone is Will Mahan and Kiel Rasp who split times punting for the Huskies last season and in comes freshman Korey Durkee from Gig Harbor. Coaches always worry about their special teams unit but this season Sarkisian has some legitimate concerns with a new punter and place kicker coming into this season. Also on the special teams unit don’t be surprised if you might see Shaq Thompson returning kick offs. Also expect to see Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams returning kick returns and punts.