“Last year we were freshmen we always talked about how we want to take the team to the top and have our team on ESPN," Aiyewa told Dawgman.com this week. "We really just didn’t like the feeling of getting beat like we did last year. So we wanted to be impact players and be an impact team,”
While Aiyewa struggled to get healthy, Williams has been paired with three different safeties and the communication has been off. Hopefully with the two back together they can continue to strengthen the chemistry in the secondary.
“Me and Nate have good chemistry back there, we communicate and stuff. Right now we’re trying to get the vibe back we used to have in spring. Me being injured and coming back, we’re getting it back together,” said Aiyewa.
The tandem of Williams and Aiyewa was talked about last year and Husky fans only got a taste during the spring game. Now with one game behind them and Aiyewa looking like the consistent starter for now the chemistry they have formed should not only help their play but also the entire defense.
“That’s real important for your secondary," said senior cornerback Mesphin Forrester, who moved to corner from safety in the spring. "Just to have that chemistry with each other. I remember it was me and Jason Wells last year in the beginning of the season we had great chemistry. I felt we played some great football games and he (Wells) went down and Darin (Harris) came in and it took us a little while to get used to each other.
"That’s huge, chemistry is huge in the secondary.”
Aside from that bond, Williams and Aiyewa are also versatile athletes that can rotate easily between strong and free safety. “It’s the same role: Safety is safety," said Aiyewa. "We both like to tackle and we both like to cover, so it’s pretty much the same role. It’s a safety and in order to play safety you have to do everything - run and coverage. I think that’s a good thing that we both know how to play both.”
The ability to play either position will enable the coaches to choose from a wide selection of defensive plays.
The return of Aiyewa has been a spark plug for the Husky defense and his attitude and hard play is having an infectious effect on the rest of the team. “He has an aura about him," said redshirt freshman corner Quinton Richardson, another member of the secondary from Aiyewa's class. "He wants to be the best. It pushes me harder, work him harder in the field and be the best. You watch him on the field he gets everybody going he rants, raves, jumps, butts helmets. That’s what we need in practice, that’s what we need at the time and he brings the extra addition to our back row.”
Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell has also taken notice of the passion Aiyewa has to be the best. “He has a desire to be good," he said of the man from Fresno, Texas. "He’s constantly working and he is more mature in the way he handles himself. But he’s still playing in his third football game.”
Another element that Aiyewa brings to the defense is physicality. The Huskies have had a history of safties who took pride in laying the lumber: Greg Grimes, Tim Peoples, Jim Rodgers, Eugene Burkhalter, Tommie Smith, Shane Pahukoa, Lamar Lyons, Lawyer Milloy, Tony Parrish, Hakim Akbar, the late Curtis Williams, Greg Carothers and C.J. Wallace, to name a few. “(Aiyewa) is a physical player and it’s a great thing when ever you can have a safety patrolling back there and people don’t want to come across the middle," said his position coach, J.D. Williams. "Hopefully Vic will develop into one of those safeties, the enforcer type.
"He has the aggressive mindset. He has the attitude that- bang, bang, bang, I always want to hit, I always want to hit. I think that’s great,” added Williams. “Me and him are exact opposites in the way we prepare for the games. He’s the loud, yell, loud music type of dude. Me personally, I like to get in a quiet area and just relax and visualize what I want to do. Whatever happens, on the field we always seem to work well together. I find it pretty ironic.”
Finally having consistency in the secondary should be a real positive for the team this weekend against a pass-oriented offense in Notre Dame. “I’m excited," said Donatell. "You said that word continuity. Continuity is a good thing, it just is. More weeks, more likeness, more sameness. That helps, no matter what. These offenses changing in college, that’s the way it is- but keeping the same continuity in guys no matter what, helps us.”
“Anytime you have a chance to get them together, being as healthy as possible, you have a chance to improve. Now they can play together, talk, communicate and start to do some things,” added head coach Tyrone Willingham.
With the Fighting Irish averaging 271.8 pass yards a game and Washington’s defense relinquishing 250.2 yards a game through the air, the secondary could prove to be the difference between victory and failure.
Williams and Aiyewa are only sophomores, and playing older is the name of the game right now. At the same time, it's hard not to imagine the future. They have two and half more seasons to grow together and become the safeties Husky fans have grown accustomed to seeing in previous years.