Fall Camp Review - Defense/Special Teams

Nate Fellner (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

With the offense already looked at, it's now time to take stock in Washington's defense and special teams. How did they finish off fall camp? How is the depth at each position? Who has moved up and moved down the depth chart? Slowly but surely, UW Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt has built a defense with bigger, faster, and stronger athletes, long on toughness and smarts.

But are they ready to lead the team? Let's take a look.

Defensive Tackle:

Alameda Ta'amu - What hasn't already said about Ta'amu? Not even a broken bone in his hand should stop the senior from picking up where he left off in the Holiday Bowl. If he picks up where he left off last year, he has the chance to be a top-10 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Everrette Thompson - Thompson has gained the weight he should have last year. Thirty pounds heavier, he can now truly be a two-way threat the way Daniel Te'o-Nesheim was for the Huskies, playing both inside and out. Don't expect Thompson to just have five tackles for loss in 2011; if he doesn't have that by the end of September, it'll be a disappointment.

Semisi Tokolahi - Coming back from a severe foot/ankle injury suffered during the 2010 Apple Cup, Tokolahi is starting to come back to full strength - but don't expect him to be at his best for a few games. The Huskies' plan is to get Tokolahi into early to mid-October, and then unleash a fully healthy player onto the scene to wreak havoc for the remainder of the season.

Sione Potoae - Potoae is noticeably bigger than last year, and should be more than ready to step in alongside Ta'amu when Thompson needs a spell. The bigger question is whether or not he's done the work in the off-season to be there consistently all season. At 276 pounds, will he last?

Lawrence Lagafuaina - Pushed hard all fall by Danny Shelton, and by the end of camp that competition had also forced Lagafuaina's game up to a new level. He's always had the quick first step and the size to dominate inside; now he just needs to reproduce results on an every-down basis.

Danny Shelton - The frosh from Auburn came in ready to compete, and at 6-foot-1 and 334 pounds, did just that. Physically there's no question he can play in the Pac-12 right now; only time will tell how much and how soon.

Taniela Tupou - Tupou is behind Shelton when it comes to being Pac-12 ready right now; part of the reason is because he's 50 pounds lighter than his classmate. Give him a year to get bigger, faster, and stronger, and he'll be ready to rock in 2012 - provided his decision whether or not to serve an LDS mission.

Defensive End:

Talia Crichton - Crichton missed the last half of the 2010 season, but is now back and 100 percent healthy. He's been running with the ones all fall long, and looks to have the breakout year he hinted at in 2009. At 255 pounds, he's certainly big enough to have an impact.

Hauoli Jamora - Nick Holt has talked about Jamora - a true sophomore - as the second-best DL on the team behind Ta'amu. That's heady praise, and well deserved. He's already 20 pounds heavier than last year, but seemingly hasn't lost a step of speed or quickness off the snap.

Josh Shirley - UW created a whole different spot on the depth chart - RUSH - because of Shirley. He didn't play at all last year, but expect him to be unleashed Saturday against EWU. Can he be an every-down defensive end? There's no doubt the coaches are intrigued with his pure speed off the edge.

Andrew Hudson - Went through camp under the radar; just got his work in and didn't cause much of a fuss. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Hard to tell right now, but we will quickly find out what the coaches think of Hudson during week one - will he be the first or second DE off the bench, or will they move Everrette Thompson outside in certain situations?

Jarett Finau - Finau came into fall camp in great shape, and looks to be the frosh that could physically handle the rigors of the position if the coaches were forced to play any of the youngsters.

Connor Cree - At 231 pounds, there's no question a redshirt year would be best for Cree, but he's the same weight Hauoli Jamora was last year. He's shown moments of brilliance in one-on-ones, but can it translate right now onto the field?

Corey Waller - The heir apparent to the RUSH spot created by Josh Shirley, Waller needs a redshirt year to get bigger, faster, and stronger. Like Cree, showed great promise in spurts, but should show up more frequently with a year's worth of seasoning.

Outside Linebacker:

Princeton Fuimaono - Fuimaono - like Keith Price - was thrown right into the fire at Oregon as a true freshman, showing the coaches' early faith in his ability. Expect Fuimaono to start at the weak-side spot against Eastern Washington, but knows both outside linebacker positions.

Garret Gilliland - Gilliland was another linebacker to earn a start as a true freshman in 2010, filling in for Cort Dennison against Nebraska. Like Dennison, Gilliland is being groomed as an every-position linebacker, and should ably back up Fuimaono or Dennison in a pinch.

John Timu - The revelation of fall camp, the true freshman from Long Beach, Calif. delayed enrolling at UW last year because of a knee injury. Twenty pounds heavier and no knee brace in sight, Timu has been moved to the starting strong-side spot over the tight end, showing great sideline-to-sideline speed.

Jamaal Kearse - Another fast athlete to work on the strong side, the 230-pound Kearse showed flashes of being exactly the type of quick, strong 'backer that can play in space or down in the box. Should play a bunch as the season progresses and he gets comfortable being on the stage.

Cooper Pelluer - Coming back from off-season shoulder surgery, Pelluer was an early special teams stalwart as a true frosh. He's set to take the experience he learned with the bullets flying to the OLB spot; at 225 pounds he's big enough to play along the line of scrimmage, but is quick enough to step out and cover flats and seams if needed.

Jordan Wallace - The junior from Sacramento has been hurt, so it's hard to gauge where he is coming out of fall camp. He only played in eight games in 2010, mostly on special teams - so when he gets healthy I expect more of the same.

Scott Lawyer - Of the two true freshmen, Lawyer seemed to get more of the work up the depth chart. That's kind of damning with faint praise though, as both will undoubtedly redshirt. At less than 200 pounds, he needs to gain 15-20 pounds to be the same Princeton Fuimaono-type player the UW coaches envision - a two-way terror that is effective on defense and special teams.

Matthew Lyons - Also under 200 pounds, Lyons has the football smarts to get early playing time at both outside linebacker and special teams once he gets bigger, stronger, and faster. So Lyons' job this year is to get used to school, soak it all in, and lock himself in the weight room. If he comes back out in the spring at 210-215 pounds - mission accomplished.

Inside Linebacker:

Cort Dennison - The anchor of the linebacking corps, this is Dennison's time to shine. Everything on the UW defense is going to be funneled his way, and at 235 pounds he's ready to make his senior season one to remember. It would be a major shock if he wasn't the Huskies' leading tackler in 2011.

Thomas Tutogi - Tutogi, a junior transfer sophomore from southern California, picked UW over USC, so expectations are high that he'll be able to spell Dennison the few times when Cort needs a blow. At 244 pounds, he no doubt possesses the physical tools to get it done; how quickly the schemes and the terminology comes to him will determine effectiveness.

Tim Tucker - The sophomore from Narbonne has been biding his time, and didn't really appear to effectively compete this fall against Tutogi, as the JC transfer immediately worked his way into the two-deeps early on. And with the UW coaches also looking at Garret Gilliland inside, Tucker may have a tough time finding time outside of special teams.

Safeties:

Nathan Fellner - From greyshirt to starter, Fellner's journey in purple and gold has been a fascinating one to watch. Firmly entrenched as the Huskies' starting free safety in 2010, his grip began to slip a little as Justin Glenn came on like gangbusters in fall camp. Expect the junior from Fresno to start against Eastern Washington, but his spot isn't as secure as it was after spring ball.

Justin Glenn - No one really expected to hear much from Glenn during the fall to start, because there had been rumors of a summer ankle injury - but all the junior from Mukilteo did was compete his butt off and prove to be a worthy challenger to Nate Fellner's free safety stranglehold. Glenn, who has played every spot in the secondary, will be invaluable to the Huskies as the first player off the bench in their substitution packages, if he's not already playing.

Sean Parker - Parker was the victim of a stinger injury in 2010, but he hasn't slowed a step this fall. You would never know he'd been hurt. When 100 percent, he is the Huskies' starting strong safety, but his spot is not assured - especially if players like Taz Stevenson and Will Shamburger are at their best.

Taz Stevenson - The sophomore from Hawaii had off-season shoulder surgery - the price paid for playing in all 13 games as a true frosh in 2010. This fall he had a knee act up on him, but bounced back near the end of fall camp to factor into the safety two-deeps. The Huskies will need Stevenson to be healthy and fit, as he is also a valuable special teams contributor.

Will Shamburger - Shamburger was poised to hit the scene running last year, getting a TFL against BYU in the season opener - and although he played in 10 games in 2010, things just never got as good as that first game. The sophomore from Compton, Calif. has been hovering around the depth, winning little victories here and there - especially near the end of spring, but never really securing anything yet for his efforts.

Greg Walker - Walker, like Shamburger, is a player that started out a season on a positive note, but then fell off the map. The only difference is that Walker did that in 2009, starting against LSU. He hasn't done a ton since, getting passed up on the depth. Expect Walker's biggest impact right now to be on special teams, where he brings a wealth of experience.

James Sample - The safety position has never been in better hands at UW, especially after watching the freshmen compete. Sample, a U.S. Army All-American, looks to be a natural fit at strong safety. It will be very interesting to see if he plays in 2011, and Nick Holt has hinted that Sample has done enough in fall camp to show that they can't keep him off the field.

Travis Feeney - At 6-foot-4, the former Arizona commit-turned Washington signee is lining himself up as the ballhawk to replace Fellner and Glenn when they graduate. Feeney is not just a rangy secondary performer; it's entirely possible he could move up to linebacker depending on how big he gets because he doesn't mind putting his hat on ballcarriers. In fact, he likes contact quite a bit.

Evan Zeger - Zeger came into fall camp physically looking the best of all the freshmen, a bigger, more-imposing Nate Fellner. But a hamstring limited his work early on, and he's lingered at the back of the group ever since. With a redshirt year, Zeger could also stay at safety as a big, enforcing strong safety, or could even move up to the second level if he gets that much bigger, faster, and stronger.

Cornerbacks:

Quinton Richardson - Richardson is a question mark for the Eastern Washington game after suffering a high ankle sprain in the middle of fall camp. It's a big loss for UW, and a tough break for the senior from O'Dea, who was coming into his own after finishing 2010 on a high. The quicker he gets back on the field, the the UW defense instantly becomes better.

Desmond Trufant - The unofficial MVP of fall camp, Trufant has brought one thing to his game that's been missing his first two years at UW - consistency. Every day at fall camp, you could count on the junior from Tacoma to bring it, shutting down his side of the field. The battles he had with Jermaine Kearse have primed Tru's motor, and he's raring to let 'er rip against Eastern Washington. If he doesn't get a pick in the season opener, it will be a surprise.

Anthony Gobern - With Adam Long out with an ACL injury this past winter, Gobern's path was clear - take Long's spot on the depth. And the junior from Fair Oaks, Calif. - who played in 12 games in 2010 as a special teams regular - did everything that was asked of his this spring and fall to get him ready to compete as a positional player. He's still green on defense, but is older than his class suggests - he delayed enrollment to rehab an injury. Hopefully that maturity pays off, because Gobern will most definitely be counted on this year.

Gregory Ducre - It would have been huge for Ducre, who played in every game in 2010, to have a healthy spring, but it wasn't to be. The true sophomore already has a pick on his UW resume, and if Richardson's ankle doesn't heal in time for the Eastern Washington opener, Ducre will be the player opposite Trufant to start against the Eagles. Athletically, Ducre has what it takes; ideally another season of spot duty would allow Ducre to enter next year fully ready to take over for Richardson with little to no drop-off.

Marcus Peters - With Shelton and Sample, Peters is the other true freshman mentioned by Holt as one not long for the bench. Depth will dictate playing time for the corner from Oakland, but it isn't like Peters hasn't shown some early proficiency. He came into fall camp highly-touted, and has done nothing to suggest he isn't capable of having the same type of freshman campaign similar to what Trufant did in 2009.

Tre Watson - A transfer from Central Washington, Watson has to sit out the 2011 season. And that is truly a shame, because the junior from Kennedy High would find some playing time - even if it's just on special teams. He hasn't been at Montlake long, but this fall Watson showed he's an old soul; he fit right in and competed his butt off. He certainly didn't look like a walk-on, and UW fans should expect to hear more from Watson next spring.

Marquis Persley - Much like Greg Walker, Persley had one year that showed promise; for the senior corner it was 2008. Since that time, it's been two years of nothing but the service team for Persley. If he is to have an impact his final year at UW, it's going to be as a special teams standout.


Special Teams:

Erik Folk - Folk has been a steady Eddie the past two seasons at UW, and he did nothing during fall camp to dissuade from the opinion that he will have another successful kicking campaign. He's never been a practice player, but as shown by his last-second winning kicks against USC the past two seasons, expect the senior to show up when it matters most.

Eric Guttorp - The walk-on from Nathan Hale has been Folk's understudy the past three years, and while he hasn't been needed, Guttorp has shown in practice to be very accurate from 40 yards in. For longer kicks, his leg is a little less reliable.

Kiel Rasp - It's hard to tell where either one of the punters finished fall camp, because both were equally good. It got to the point where UW Head Coach Steve Sarkisian couldn't make up his mind by the end of camp who was the starter. Rasp appears to be the one the Huskies will use when they are on their side of the field - he appears to have a slightly bigger leg.

William Mahan - The junior college standout is finally back after redshirting in 2010. He was hurt after the BYU game, but now is 100 percent and ready to improve on his 2009 season average of 40.6 yards per punt. He had 21 of 52 punts fair-caught that year, so he might be counted on to handle directional and 'coffin-corner' kicks, depending on the how the UW coaches decide to use him.

Brendan Lopez - It's a bit unusual when all the specialists are seniors, but Lopez - the former walk-on from Bellevue High, via the University of Michigan - makes it a clean sweep. The mark of a great snapper is if his name never makes it in the papers, and outside of a blemish in game one last year, you never heard a peep from him.

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