Spring Preview – The Defense Part II

LB Marquis Cooper (Photo: K. Grinolds)

Washington loses two senior leaders in Jafar Williams and Ben Mahdavi in the linebacking corps. However, there is reason to believe that this group could be improved with the youth stepping into the roles of outside linebacker and inside "MIK" backer.

Marquis Cooper (6-4 205 senior) is rapidly proving to be the tackling machine on this team. Cooper lost out on the starting job before the opener at Michigan, but saw the field on the third defensive play of that game (after the second went 67 yards for a touchdown). He has rarely stepped foot off of the field since, except for injury.

In 13 games last year, Coop totaled 100 tackles, 13 behind the line of scrimmage. His 4.4 speed and his long arms are his biggest assets, and he uses both to swarm to the ball from his "WIL" inside linebacker position. If there is one drawback to Cooper, it's the fact that physically he looks more like a wide receiver, but this is a guy that makes tackles and gets off blocks just fine at barely over 200 pounds. He has proven to be the best tackler on the Husky defense, and looks for a huge senior season.

Cooper will miss the spring while his body heals, but he shouldn't miss a beat come fall camp. There is little concern over whether he can get the job done inside.

Now that Cooper has solidified the weakside ILB position, Joseph Lobendahn (5-10 235 junior) will look to slip into Mahdavi's MIK role on the strong side. Husky linebacker coach Cornell Jackson believes this kid has tremendous upside and has not yet begun to show it on the field. His time will be this spring. Lobendahn is a 4.5 40 guy, so pursuit isn't a problem. He also really showed a knack for being able to read things as they developed and shoot the proper gaps in fall camp, however when the season arrived he slid down the depth chart and seemed to not play with confidence. Expect that to end right away. He is short, but very suited to play the MIK role in this defense. He is plenty strong enough to blow up a fullback in the hole and stuff the inside to create the mess, so Cooper can clean it up. With Tim Galloway (6-2 240 junior) missing the spring, Lobendahn will get every opportunity to prove that he is the MIK of the future. Galloway will challenge him in the fall when he's healthy, and Tim has played a lot of minutes there. The threesome of Cooper, Lobendahn, and Galloway could easily rotate between the two inside positions to provide nice depth and continuity.

Greg Carothers (6-2 215 senior) will be tried at outside linebacker (SAM) this spring. He's played that role in the nickel package and looked very comfortable at times. He admitted to being a little bit taken back by being so much closer to the line as plays are developing, but he is a tough tackler when his shoulders are healthy. His body is more suited to linebacker, and although he has had some trouble with people throwing over the top of him, that won't be a problem at SAM. His zone drops will be significantly different and he'll be asked to cover more tight ends.

The time is now for Tyler Krambrink (6-1 215 senior) to step up and make his contribution. He will likely be tried at both the SAM outside linebacker and the WIL inside linebacker positions. Speed and athleticism are his game, but injury has hampered his career to date.

One guy to really keep an eye on this spring will be Notre Dame transfer Cory Jones (6-0 215 sophomore). He sat out last year per the transfer rules but he is an explosive athlete that will challenge for playing time at the SAM spot. Ironically, that is the very position where Chuck Heater was recruiting him to Washington to play. But from Kennedy High School, Jones had designs of being a tailback , hence his decision to not look at the Huskies. Now he's back and ready to start thumping offensive players.

Scott White (6-0 220 freshman) can really motor and will get his first chance to show off his athleticism this spring. He could play inside or out right now. The need appears to be more inside this spring, so WIL could be a likely target for him.

The likely linebacker rotation this fall could be:
MIK LB: Joe Lobendahn (5-10 235 jr.), Tim Galloway (6-2 235 jr)
WIL LB: Marquis Cooper (6-4 205 sr), Tyler Krambrink (6-1 215 sr)
SAM LB: Greg Carothers (6-2 215 sr), Cory Jones (6-0 215 so)

But, with Cooper and Galloway out for the spring, watch for Scott White, Tyler Krambrink, and Cory Jones to really try and make some headway.
Link to Offense Part I: The Offensive Line
Link to Offense Part II: The Receivers
Link to Offense Part III: The Offensive Backfield
Link to Defense Part I: The Defensive Line


next up – the secondary

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