Defensive Newcomers to Watch: No. 5

Connor Cree (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

Today on Dawgman.com, we start a new series where Chris Fetters and Scott Eklund will take a look at some of top returning underclassmen that are currently in line to see a lot of playing time this fall. First up on the defensive side of the ball, coming in at number five, are two defensive ends.

These two redshirt freshmen are working behind an experienced group but showed enough in spring to warrant serious consideration for playing time this fall.

We're talking about Corey Waller and Connor Cree.

Scouting Report - Waller and Cree are both very athletic pass rushers who do their jobs in different ways. Waller is not much taller than 6 feet, but he is quick off the snap and really uses his 225 pounds and low pad level and speed to get to the edge quicker than tackles. Cree is much taller at 6-foot-4 and uses that length and angularity to reach the corner. Once there, Cree definitely has the size to keep moving past tackles when they try to lean in on him.

Neither player are completely there in terms of gaining the size and strength required to bully the edge on a regular basis, but they are getting there. What they do have is speed, aggressiveness, and a competitive zeal to kill the quarterback - figuratively, of course.
Where they fit - With the emergence of Josh Shirley as a true speed pass rusher, Washington has even gone to putting a 12th position on their official depth charts. They call is RUSH. That's what Shirley is, and that's where Waller and Cree will also do their damage. You can also see the UW coaches are committed to this position with the commitments made recently by Daeshon Hall and Marcus Farria, both speed players that have done a ton of damage on the edge so far during their high school careers.

Right now Shirley is the one true player at the RUSH position, and Waller and Cree play there now. Depending on how they develop physically, they could also play at the other end position currently occupied by Andrew Hudson, Hauoli Jamora and Talia Crichton. With those three occupying play on the strong side, the RUSH players are (hopefully) put in a position down after down where they have one-on-one opportunities with tackles on an island. It's there where they can truly take advantage of their burst off the snap and explosiveness off the edge.
Why this is the year to make their mark - Honestly, this year isn't necessarily the year where they need to make their mark as imp ace players. But they do need to show that they are ready to take that next step in their development to where they aren't just scout, or service, players anymore. Waller and Cree have to show that their productive springs have not gone to waste over the summer. For the first time in what seems like ages, Washington has assembled a nice array of defensive ends in all shapes and sizes for whatever situation is required. They have lengthy guys like Cree; they have stout players like Jamora, Crichton and Hudson; they have speed players like Shirley and Waller; they have bigger ends like Finau and true freshman Pio Vatuvei.

The hope for Waller and Cree is that they become consistent contributors, able to spell Shirley and the other ends when they need a breather or down and distance dictate using their skill set. They don't have to kill it; if they did that would just be icing on the cake. But they do have to show that their development is on the same kind of solid learning curve that showed up back in April.

Dawgman.com Recommended Stories