Aside from maybe the defensive line, linebacker may be the hardest position to figure out on this team. Two starters, Mason Foster and Cort Dennison, seem to have their spots locked down but the other spot is up for grabs at the moment. Here is my depth chart, but this could change drastically by the end of spring.
- Weakside linebacker: Mason Foster, 6-2, 245, SR.
- Middle linebacker: Cort Dennison, 6-1, 230, JR.
- Strongside linebacker: Matt Houston, 6-0, 225, SR.
Mason Foster is pretty awesome. He had a very good year last year and it’s a little sad to me that he’s a senior. I still remember watching his high school highlight reel with my friend Derek while sitting in class. Last year he played strongside linebacker and had some memorable plays, most notably the interception against Arizona. This year he switches over to weakside because the coaches want to have their best linebacker at that position. Switching positions shouldn’t be a very big adjustment for Foster and I expect him to be an all pac-10 caliber player this year. This spring he needs to adjust to his new position and become a leader of this questionable front seven on the Husky defense.
Cort Dennison started last year as a backup but with the injury of E.J. Savannah he became a starter. Not only did he become a starter, he was a good starter. Like Foster, Dennison will be changing his position as a linebacker. He will shift over to the middle to fill the void left by Donald Butler graduating. Cort is one of the best tacklers on this Husky defense. Although him and Foster already know all three positions to a degree, he too will have to adjust to a new position this spring and will need to lead the defense from that middle linebacker spot.
Matt Houston is a starter by default. Whatever linebacker steps up as the third best of this group will be the starter regardless of the position. Houston is very capable of winning this job though. He has been in the program and should have a good handle on the defense by now. Hopefully he steps up and shows that he can handle the job but he hasn’t seen much playing time. It’s hard to know what exactly he can do.
- Weakside linebacker: Jordan Wallace
- Middle linebacker: Tim Tucker, Victor Burnett
- Strongside linebacker: Alvin Logan
The depth here is very thin and young. Jordan Wallace and Tim Tucker are red-shirt freshmen. They both drew raves from the coaches in scout team work last year and each will have the opportunity to play. Both came in as somewhat unheralded recruits but, in time, could become good linebackers for the Dawgs. Hopefully that time will come sooner rather than later.
Victor Burnett, a true freshman, is enrolling in school early to take part in spring practice. He was a highly rated middle linebacker by most recruiting websites. This spring he will need to adjust to the college speed and learn the playbook. Burnett may have more talent than those in front of him but it’s difficult to learn a defense, get acclimated to the college speed, and when a position battle all at once. I hope Burnett comes in and surprises but I don’t think he’ll come out of the spring as a starter.
Alvin Logan started his career here as a receiver. He was moved over to linebacker last year and spent the year on special teams and learning the defense. He could end up in the role Foster had last year as a hybrid SLB/DE. He should have good speed and he has good size already. The question is if he’s a good enough tackler to be a started.
Overall overview: The Huskies have two good linebackers here but after that it becomes somewhat scary. Between Houston, Wallace, Tucker, Burnett, and Logan you’d think that someone will step up and win the job. It doesn’t matter what position the winner of this position battle plays because Cort and Mason are flexible. There are not enough linebackers here and to make up for that some DB’s may be moved over during the spring. The front seven of this defense is my biggest concern about this team and not even Mason and Cort can stop that.