This is the last installment in our long series of position overviews. Spring practice starts tomorrow. I plan on attending most of them and then posting practice reports.
Today we’ll take a look at safeties; a position with a few questions but with even more promise. Here’s my depth chart:
- Strong Safety: Nate Willliams, 6-0, 220, SR.
- Free Safety: Justin Glenn, 5-11, 200, RS SO. or Nate Fellner, 6-1, 200, SO.
Nate Williams has been a mainstay in the Huskies secondary for the last 3 years. He’s a solid player that the coaches like a lot. He is sure to add experience to this group and be a leader on this defense along with Mason Foster. He can play either position but the coaches prefer to have him at free safety. The only downside on Williams is that he tends to wear down over the course of a full season. This is a problem because the Huskies need to be able to count on Williams for all 13 games this year (yes, I’m counting a bowl game). The biggest thing this spring for Williams is to stay healthy and to get stronger so that he’s able to be there all of next season.
Most people have Nate Fellner as the starter at free safety but I’m not so sure. Because of a couple injuries last year, Fellner became the starter. He showed potential but struggled at times, which is to be expected from a true freshman. Nate was overlooked in the recruiting process and came to the Huskies unnoticed. This looks like it was a good sleeper pickup for the coaching staff. Fellner is a hard hitter and will be a solid player over his career.
The reason that Fellner doesn’t have the starting job on lock down is because of Justin Glenn. Glenn became the starter against USC last year and we all know what happened that game. He was a very good player and made many tackles before breaking his leg last year. Without Glenn I don’t think we would’ve won that game against USC. If he plays at the level he did last year I think he is the best free safety we have. I don’t know if he will be able to do that though, returning from a broken leg is not an easy thing to do.
- Strong/Free Safety: Victor Aiyewa, Greg Walker, Marquis Persley, Will Shaumburger
Aiyewa is senior who has had injury problems all of his career. He is a big kid who will backup William at strong safety. The coaching staff may take a look at him playing outside linebacker too. Victor can hit people very hard. I’ll never forget an interview I heard with Victor Aiyewa when the reporter asked him what he brought to the team, Aiyewa responded with the brilliant answer, “I like to hit people.” Football players should say that more often. Because of this I will always be a Victor Aiyewa fan. If he can stay healthy, I think we’ll see Victor do some big hitting this Fall.
Greg Walker began last year as the starter. He blew a couple coverage assignments and then was passed by Glenn and Fellner on the depth chart. Walker can obviously do some good things or else the coaches wouldn’t have started him in the first game last year. But, from what I’ve seen, Walker needs to get better in pass coverage and tackling. He is only a sophomore and will only get better with time, assuming a Vonzell McDowell situation doesn’t occur.
The other two guys are not very well known commodities. Persley, a junior, has spent the last couple years as a backup cornerback and now makes the transition to safety. We’ll see what he can do come this spring. Shaumburger red-shirted last year. He was an impressive recruit and we hope that translates to the field. Both of these guys need to have good springs in order to see the field come next fall.
Overall Position: This team has plenty of talent at safety. Over the course of last season, many of these guys gained experience also. I think this group could be pretty good. Matched with a good set of cornerbacks, the Dawgs might have a better secondary than they have in 7 or 8 years (which, to be honest, isn’t saying much). The one gripe here is that it doesn’t look like the Dawgs have much star power at either safety position. They have very solid players but I don’t think any of them have all pac-10 potential (although Nate Williams may get some consideration because he’s been consistent over the last 3 years). It’s nice to have a solid group here and it’s nice to not have to worry too much about the Dawgs secondary for the first time in while.
Just a few quick notes after the jump
Sark reported in his press conference today that Dorson Boyce would be changing positions from tight end to fullback. This was somewhat expected and a good move. Boyce was behind Middleton and Izbicki on the depth chart for tight end so he probably wouldn’t have seen much playing time. Boyce was known for his blocking, therefore a move to fullback makes sense. He will be in competition will Austin Sylvester and Kimo Makaula for the starting job. Don’t be surprised if Makaula is tried out at defensive end during the spring.
Sark also noted that Drew Shaeffer will be moved to center. This will move Tolar and Ikehara to guard and Kelemete to tackle. This is a move to maximize Kelemete’s potential. All in all, I think this move will make our line more athletic. Ikehara is said to have put on about 15 pounds this winter so moving to guard shouldn’t be a problem for him. Skyler Fancher will start in the other tackle position during the spring but this is only because Cody Habben is injured.
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back with the first practice report of the spring tomorrow! Go dawgs!