Looking beyond the Holiday Bowl, Part II

Alameda Ta'amu (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

Washington won their last three games in a row, and not only earned a trip to the Holiday Bowl, but they got a huge measure of revenge in beating Nebraska. That is a great reward not only for a team that worked so hard to overcome a three-game losing streak, but also for a program that has not been to the post season in nearly a decade.

Besides the win, perhaps the biggest boon to the school was the additional 15 practices that they took advantage of, both in Seattle and in San Diego. In those practices, not only were offensive sets and defensive schemes being honed and refined, but the battles for next fall began in earnest.

Bowl practices are where young kids get their chance to really step up and show how much they've learned this year.

With that in mind, I decided to look ahead to 2011 and forecast the potential two-deeps at each position. Today, I look at the defensive side of the ball. This is the group that will be key in my opinion, because Washington will be unveiling a new quarterback on offense. I just don't see them being able to generate points in droves, and I believe that they will shift to a more ground oriented attack. In order to do that, however, you have to have a defense that can make stops and keep the game close.

Thus, the defense needs some serious upgrading. They way they played against Nebraska was really encouraging, and they need to continue up that improvement curve. Below is the position by position breakdown.
DE Everrette Thompson 6-6 250 Senior
DE Talia Crichton 6-3 245 Junior
DE Andrew Hudson 6-3 241 RS-Freshman

Thompson faced a struggle all season, having returned from a serious achilles heel injury. He got better and better as the season wore on. Expect him to be a much bigger contributor in 2011. Crichton adds a good dimension on third-down pass rushing situations, and Hudson provides exciting depth. He was the co-Defensive Scout Squad MVP with Josh Shirley, so the future bodes well for Hudson.

DT Alameda Ta'amu 6-3 330 Senior
DT Chris Robinson 6-0 255 Sophomore
DT Lawrence Lagafuaina 6-0 345 RS-Freshman

Ta'amu overcame a slow start to the season to really shine in the latter part. He was dominant in the final three games, and will be looking to pick up where he left off for his senior campaign. Robinson is very undersized for a tackle, but he is stout. This is an area where Lagafuaina might provide some good depth. He is more of a run stuffer but with a very explosive first step.

DT Sione Potoa'e 6-2 290 Sophomore
DT Semisi Tokolahi 6-2 297 Junior

Potoa'e wasn't ready early in the season when he was getting handled, but as the season went on, he began to get it. By the end of the year he was playing some outstanding football. With Tokolahi rehabbing a serious ankle injury, Potoa'e could possibly be playing a lot of minutes as would Lagafuaina. And there will be incoming freshman Danny Shelton waiting in the wings, but just like with Lagafuaina, Shelton should be allowed to redshirt his first year at UW.

DE Hau'oli Jamora 6-3 245 Sophomore
DE Kalani Aldrich 6-7 250 Senior

Jamora was thrown into the fire when Crichton went down, and he really showed up. He got beaten when he was forced to play in space, but he can really get up field. His upside is tremendous, and he is perhaps the best pass rusher on the line. Aldrich's health won't allow him to play a lot but he adds some good depth on a few snaps per game.

OLB Princeton Fuimaono 6-0 210 Sophomore
OLB Jordan Wallace 6-0 225 Junior
OLB Josh Shirley 6-1 225 RS-Freshman
OLB John Timu 6-2 225 Freshman

The battle to replace Mason Foster will be fierce. Cort Dennison could be moved here if Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt doesn't like what he sees from this position. Fuimaono has really good instincts and despite being smallish, he runs and tackles well. Wallace and Shirley are bigger players who might be able to get off blocks easier at their size. Shirley is also being looked at as a pass rushing defensive end in some sets. The wildcard here is Timu, who is already enrolled and working out. He's 100 percent after rehabbing a knee injury, and with his size he could immediately find a role in the LB corps. Seen at the Holiday Bowl practices, Timu certainly passes the look test and fits the part of a player that could emerge during spring football.

ILB Cort Dennison 6-1 235 Senior
ILB Victor Burnett 5-11 232 RS-Freshman
ILB Tim Tucker 6-1 221 Sophomore
ILB Thomas Tutogi 6-2 235 Sophomore

Dennison is a very sure-handed and dependable tackler inside, but he is flexible enough to play outside as well. That gives Linebackers Coach Mike Cox a lot of options, and the ability to move guys around. The addition of JC LB Thomas Tutogi is intriguing. If he can use this spring to learn the schemes and then be ready to compete by fall, he might be the answer here, allowing Dennison to move over to OLB. The best three linebackers will get on the field somehow.

SAM Garret Gilliland 6-0 215 Sophomore
SAM Cooper Pelluer 6-3 221 Sophomore
SAM Jamaal Kearse 6-2 230 RS-Freshman

Gilliland is undersized but he is one of the best linebackers on the roster in terms of being in the right place and making tackles. He has experience as well, as he made a start in place of an injured Cort Dennison this year. Pelluer and Kearse are green but both impressed the coaches.

CB Quinton Richardson 6-0 200 Senior
CB Greg Ducre 5-10 170 Sophomore
CB Anthony Gobern 5-11 189 Junior

Richardson was an enigma this year. Early on he got burned regularly and made bad mistakes. Over the last three games he was the best defensive back on the field by a long shot. Ducre is fast but he wasn't strong enough physically to really be a factor. With another year of maturing he should be ready to contribute more in 2011. His speed is great.

CB Desmond Trufant 6-0 180 Junior
CB Adam Long 5-10 170 Junior
CB Justin Glenn 5-11 203 Junior

Trufant kind of stepped backwards from where he was as a true freshman, but he had some health issues to deal with. After two years of starting, he should really be stepping his game up in 2011. The depth behind him is questionable. Long is fast but very small. This is a position where an incoming freshman could make an impact. Kameron Jackson could be one to watch. Glenn had trouble returning from a serious injury this year, and could be used at either corner or safety.

SS Sean Parker 5-10 200 Sophomore
SS Taz Stevenson 6-0 200 Sophomore
SS Greg Walker 5-10 195 Junior

Parker is a little on the smallish side and doesn't have top end speed, but he is a great tackler. He also has a great nose for the football and isn't bad in coverage. Stevenson burned his redshirt this year and is a little bigger player and might have the edge speed-wise over Parker. It should be a fun battle to watch.

FS Nate Fellner 6-1 208 Junior
FS Will Shamburger 6-0 195 Sophomore
FS Marquis Persley 6-0 188 Senior

Fellner is a big hitter and has earned that reputation with his hits in live action. He is a very solid albeit not spectacular safety who has some skills when the ball is in the air. His four interceptions and 12 passes defended were tops on the defense this year, as were his two forced fumbles. Shamburger might have better range than Fellner but doesn't yet have his instincts.

This spring, look for the defensive line to be solid with a more consistent Ta'amu and an experienced Potoa'e anchoring the middle. Tokolahi's rehabilitation will be key. The need here is for Jamora to continue up his learning curve and for Thompson to remain healthy. If that happens, it should be a solid defensive front.

The linebacking crew won't be the same without Mason Foster. They can't be – that kid was special and will be playing on Sundays next year. But they can scheme and utilize their speed in the youth ranks to make up for it somewhat.

In the defensive backfield, the cornerback play must improve from 2010 and the safeties have to take better angles. The entire unit improved in the final three games of last year, but that needs to be the starting point for 2011, not the goal.
Looking Beyond The Holiday Bowl, Part 1 - The Offense

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