Recruiting Impact Report - Def/Special Teams

Recruiting Impact Report - Def/Special Teams

With Signing Day done, it's time to see what all the pieces of the puzzle look like. Yesterday, we focused on the offense, so today, we'll take a look at defense and the special teams and like our first installment, we'll break it down, position by position…

Defensively, the Huskies have four new coaches – new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, defensive backs coach Keith Heyward, defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon – and a new philosophy and scheme come with them.

These coaches are aggressive, both on the field and on the recruiting trail and it paid off with some big name recruits who switched over to Washington from other Pac 12 schools late in the game.

Here is a look at how each fits into the current depth and what fans can expect from them in the coming year…

Safety: Shaquille Thompson – The momentum swung in the Huskies' favor when Lupoi opted to leave Berkeley for the much more football friendly atmosphere at Washington. Thompson immediately adds speed to the deep patrol and brings a reputation as a very physical player. A good comparison would be the late Sean Taylor, although Thompson is two inches shorter than the former Miami Hurricane All-American.

Thompson flies around and makes plays and when he was on the field with the rest of U.S. Army All-Americans, he was, hands down, the best player on the field.

With Sean Parker, Taz Stevenson, Travis Feeney, James Sample, Nate Fellner, Justin Glenn, Evan Zeger and Will Shamburger already on the roster, things appear to be pretty crowded already at the safety spot, but the coaches will be hard-pressed to keep Thompson off the field.

Glenn is a hybrid safety/corner and Zeger (linebacker) and Sample (corner) could both make the move to another position. Look for the Husky coaches to use Thompson in a number of ways, but he appears to be better closer to line, which would mean that Parker would battle Fellner and Shamburger for the free safety spot.

Cornerbacks: Cleveland Wallace, Brandon Beaver and Darien Washington – All three signees have a chance to see the field in one capacity or another. Beaver and Wallace come with great man-to-man reputations, while Washington is more in the mold of Glenn, a player who could play safety or corner, depending on the defensive call.

Washington's size could preclude him getting many reps at the safety position, but he could see some action at free safety in a cover-four (quarters) situation.

Wallace is big and very physical, while Beaver's quickness and aggressive nature, along with his impressive size, makes him one that can match up against bigger receivers as well.

All three will compete with the likes of Desmond Trufant, Anthony Gobern, Gregory Ducre and Marcus Peters, a newly healthy Adam Long, the recently enrolled Antavius Sims and walk-on Tre Watson who many think could challenge for playing time this fall.

Trufant is guaranteed a starting spot, which means that Sims, Ducre and Peters will battle for the other starting position.

If Wallace and Beaver are as advertised, they could push their older teammates all the way up until the start of the season.

All three could also see time on the punt and kick coverage teams, so it is no guarantee that any of the three will redshirt.

Linebacker: Cory Littleton, Blake Rodgers and Ryan McDaniel – Try as the might, the Huskies just weren't able to reel in any "big fish" at the outside spot, but they are relatively young there and there are plenty of bodies to choose from.

However, with the loss of Cort Dennison, the Huskies are left with only junior Thomas Tutogi inside, although Garrett Gilliland can also man the middle if necessary.

That lack of depth will allow one of the three incoming freshmen to see significant playing time this fall either in front of, behind or next to Tutogi.

Rodgers is a pure run-plugger, able to destroy running plays between the tackles while taking on blocker, shedding and then wrapping up the ball-carrier. McDaniel is a little different in that he has the speed to play sideline-to-sideline, but might not be quite as physical as Rodgers is at the point of attack.

Should Rodgers earn the early playing time, look for the Huskies to do all they can to redshirt McDaniel, who is coming off a knee injury, although he could see time outside as well, making it tough to keep him off the field.

Littleton is all about attacking the line of scrimmage and he has the frame to add enough size to get up to 250 pounds pretty easily where he could play as a standup pass-rusher in a 3-4 or could even put his hand on the ground in a 4-3 set.

They could also be counted on to see some reps on the special teams as well, so redshirts for any of the three are far from guaranteed.

Defensive Line: Josh Banks (JC), Pio Vatuvei, Damion Turpin and Kalei Auelua – In the continued quest to find bodies inside, fans seemed to overlook the outstanding talent of Banks, who is quick off the snap and will be counted on to get pressure from the inside as a pass-rushing defensive tackle in Washington's 4-3 sets.

However, when the Huskies go to a 3-4, Banks will move outside and play one of the defensive end positions.

Either way, Banks is going to be counted on to fill a big role in Washington's defense.

When Vatuvei switched up his commitment from USC at 1 a.m. on Signing Day, the Husky coaches couldn't have been happier and I have a feeling that head coach Steve Sarkisian and Lupoi looked like the proverbial cat that ate the canary. Vatuvei's real value is that he already is 275 pounds and will play the same roles that Banks will, moving inside or outside, depending on the defensive alignment.

Turpin is also a candidate to fill that role, although he needs at least a year or two in the weight room to be counted on in the defensive line rotation.

Washington didn't get a true nose tackle prospect in this class, so it will be up to Danny Shelton and Lawrence Lagafuaina to hold up for the whole season. Semisi Tokolahi, who has played the defensive tackle spot has the bulk and strength to play some at that position as well.

Tokolahi and Banks will battle for playing time next to Shelton who will likely be the starter at the nose tackle position.

Auelua is the only true edge pass-rusher in the class, totaling 17 sacks this season, but he isn't very big, tipping that scales at a meager 227 pounds. However, with the way Washington will use both Josh Shirley and Corey Waller, expect Auelua to fill that role – edge-rusher who is counted on to get pressure on the quarterback on a down-to-down basis.

Auelua did suffer a knee sprain in an All-Star game after the season, so there is some thought that he could be a greyshirt candidate, but his father, Sai, told Dawgman.com that he should be fine in a month or two and may not need that extra time to recover.

Kicker/Punter/Long Snapper: Travis Coons, Korey Durkee and Taylor Hindy – Washington lost all four of its specialists – kicker Erik Folk, punters Will Mahan and Kiel Rasp and long-snapper Brendan Lopez – to graduation so they will be counting on a whole new group to take over those duties.

Hindy, who also projects out at tackle along the offensive line, had a great reputation as a long-snapper coming out of Chaminade Prep in California and he will get the first crack at replacing Lopez.

Durkee has already been promised he will be given every chance to earn the punting duties and Sarkisian mentioned during his Signing Day press conference that the freshman from Gig Harbor could also be counted on for some of the shorter field goals.

Coons has a huge leg, able to get the ball at least five yards deep in the endzone on kickoffs. He didn't have a great sophomore season at Mt. San Antonio this past fall from a field goal standpoint, but a lot of that was due to some holder issues as well as the fact that he was asked to take all of the field goals over 45 yards.

If all three can adequately replace the players who occupied those spots last year, the Husky special teams should be in good shape in 2012.

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