We’re almost done with this series, and I might not get to the secondary portion until after the first game. We have a few different posts planned for tomorrow and that one might not make the cut. For now, you get to know the Washington Husky linebackers. This is a little difficult to decipher who’s a linebacker, who’s a safety and who’s injured. I’m going to go from the two-deeps that the Huskies released on Monday and I’ll also include a freshman you may have heard of. As usual, the starters are first.
LB – Travis Feeney (RS Fr.)
Feeney was a top player on the scout team a year ago, as he red-shirted. He was moved during camp to play linebacker because of the injuries. He was a safety until he was moved and I think he’ll play a position where he’s able to cover the slot receiver and is used in passing situations more. He is listed as the starter but expect him to split time with Shaq Thompson. Also, this is Nate Fellner’s position and once he comes back from injury, Feeney will have a battle on his hands.
MLB – John Timu (So.)
Timu was thrown into the storm last year and played fairly well for being a true freshman. Coaches have raved about him this off-season and his teammates must feel the same way about Timu because they elected him a team captain. I expect Timu to have made a huge improvement over last year and be a leader on this team. He’s the ‘quarterback’ of the defense and I would bet that he’ll lead the team in tackles, barring injuries.
LB – Princeton Fuimaono (Jr.)
Princeton challenges for the coolest name on the team and is also the most experienced linebacker. Fuimaono had a decent sophomore season and figures to improve this time around. He has been slowed for most of camp because of a hamstring issue but seems to be on the mend. Princeton is a guy who will definitely need to play against the power teams. He isn’t as quick in pass coverage as the converted safeties, but I’m betting he’s better against the run.
Rover – Shaq Thompson (Fr.)
Shaq is listed on the depth chart as a nickel back (which is a 3rd corner, essentially) but expect him to play more of an outside linebacker while lining up all over the field. I could list Thompson in the secondary, but he’s been doing drills with linebackers recently and I think, to the less educated eye like mine and most fans, he’ll act and appear more as a linebacker. Matthew and I have written about Thompson in a couple of different places. I think he’s a game changer and the coaches seem to, as well. He may not be a game changer this year but he’ll show flashes of that. Shaq will make mistakes but he’s the type of player the Huskies haven’t had on defense in a decade. I think you could call this defense a 3-4, a 4-3, a 3-3-5, or a 4-2-5. I tend to think of it simply as a 4-3 but that puts in Shaq with the linebackers. Expect 2 of the Thompson, Fuimaono, and Feeney trio to be on the field most of the time and Timu being on the field almost all of the time.
The others who will see time: MLB Thomas Tutogi (Jr.), LB Taz Stevenson (Jr.), LB Nate Fellner (Sr.)
All of these guys will see time on the field. Tutogi came to U-Dub last year after transferring in and could be a solid contributor. He will definitely see time on special teams (he blocked the punt in the Apple Cup). I think Tutogi will play more and more as the season goes on and he’s more than a capable back-up. Taz was moved off of the safety position and is playing the same position Feeney and Fellner are playing. He played quite a bit his freshman year but was injured a good share of his sophomore year. Fellner was going to be a starting linebacker before suffering an injury in camp. He may be back by the third or fourth game. Fellner is a veteran who always seemed like he could be a good linebacker. In a quest to get the best 11 players on the field, the coaches moved him there this spring and he seemed to transition well. I hope he can make it back and I think the defense will be better if it does. All of these guys suffered injuries in Fall camp. Tutogi and Taz are healthy now but their injuries put them behind a little bit.
Thanks for reading!