Spring First Half Review - Linebackers

Shaquille Thompson (K.Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

After the first six practices of spring, the Huskies have to be pretty happy about where they stand at the linebacker position. While one starter is missing as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery, the Dawgs boast a lot of talent, athleticism and experience and that can only mean good things down the road...

Returning players are key: As long as Travis Feeney comes back completely healthy and ready to go, Washington can count on the fact that they have all three starters back as well as the top two backups at the position.

Junior John Timu, a two-year starter, mans the middle and really came on as the season moved along. As long as he keeps progressing, the Huskies will have one of the top middle linebackers in the conference over the next couple of years.

Shaquille Thompson, a sophomore, returns with his outstanding speed and athleticism and he's one of the most physical players as well.

Thomas Tutogi and Princeton Fuimaono both have played extensively for the Dawgs over the past two years and are great backups at the position.

Throw is junior Jamaal Kearse and sophomore Cory Littleton, both of whom have seen playing time, and the Huskies have plenty of experience returning throughout the depth chart.

Youngsters show promise: Littleton has added some size to his long, lean frame, measuring in at nearly 225 pounds and with the experience he got last season, the coaches love his future potential. He's seen a lot of time with the starters this spring and will likely see a lot more as Feeney continues to recover.

Scott Lawyer and Evan Zeger both have flashed some potential as well, making plays and showing their athleticism, but with the experience and talent in front of them, it's hard to figure out if they will see much in the way of playing time this fall. Both will need to make their marks on special teams in order to get on the field.

Enough pieces to work with: Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox loves to use multiple fronts and that means the Huskies have to have at last four or five linebackers that they can throw on the field at any given time. That's why the experience that returns at linebacker is such a huge advantage for the Dawgs. You could see any combination of Thompson, Kearse, Timu, Feeney, Tutogi and Fuimaono out on the field at any one time depending on whether the team wants to run a 4-3 or a 3-4 or even a 2-5.

Getting more physical: One of the biggest focuses for linebackers coach Peter Sirmon this spring has been getting his charges to be more physical at the point of attack. Over and over, during individual drills, you can hear the second-year coach imploring his players to be more physical and with players like Tutogi, Timu and Thompson the Huskies have started to show that side of their game. Even the finesse players like Kearse and Fuimaono are getting more physical at the point-of-attack and that is something to watch for over the next nine practices.

Even more talent is on the way: Th incoming linebacker class of Connor O'Brien, Keishawn Bierria, Azeem Victor and Sean Constantine is one of versatility, length and speed and all four have the talent to play right away, but the hope from the coaches is that they can redshirt all of them, but there is a slight chance you could see one or two on special teams this fall.

Either way, the Huskies are in great shape moving forward and will have some talent and speed at their disposal over the next few years.

A look at the depth: Here is my way too early, unofficial depth chart from the spring so far...

OLB - Shaquille Thompson (So), Princeton Fuimaono (Sr), Jamaal Kearse (RS Jr), Evan Zeger (RS So)
MLB - John Timu (Jr), Thomas Tutogi (Sr)
OLB - Travis Feeney (RS So)*, Cory Littleton (So), Scott Lawyer (RS So)

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