Tag Archives: Connor Cree

Looking at the Dawgs – Defense

A few days ago, I wrote about the probable starters and depth on the Huskies offense.  Today, we move over to the defense.

This picture is too pretty to leave out of this post.

This picture is too pretty to leave out of this post.

Defensive Overview: Heading into 2012, expectations weren’t exactly high for the defense.  They had just come off one of the worst seasons in school history (statistically) and even a decent jump in performance wouldn’t put them at average.  The change of the defensive coaching staff was sure to be an upgrade but how much was hard to predict.

The season started, and the offense sputtered.  Thankfully, Wilcox, and staff, performed a minor miracle and transformed the Husky defense to slightly above-average and in the top half of Pac-12 defenses.  They led the team to wins against San Diego State, Stanford and Oregon State.  The defense was led by a lockdown corner in Desmond Trufant and a slew of young linebackers in Travis Feeney, Shaq Thompson, and John Timu.

Heading into 2013, it’s still a little strange to think of the defense as a strength but it appears to be just that.  I don’t know if the unit as a whole will be way ahead of the offense but they should at least be equals to the other side of the ball.  While the offenses switch to a hurry-up offense was to benefit themselves, I do think the defense will reap benefits, as well. The defense has struggled against fast-paced spread teams for the last 10 years.  Practicing against the fast-paced can not hurt.  Also, the coaching staff has recruited a different type of athlete that’s leaning towards a longer, faster player (just look at the linebackers).

There are certainly questions on this side of the ball, but for now the positives outweigh them.  The D is young, fast, and physical and I’m excited to see what they could do this season.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the best defense Washington has had in over a decade.

On to the positions.

Defensive Line:
Starters – DE Andrew Hudson (RJr.), DT Danny Shelton (Jr.), DE Evan Hudson (RJr.), RE Josh Shirley (RJr.)/Corey Littleton (So.)/Hau’oli Kikaha (RJr.)
Andrew Hudson and Shelton have been mainstays on the line for the last few years and have performed admirably.  Andrew is more of your typical D. end in that he’s a little longer, isn’t quite as heavy and excels in rushing the passer.  Shelton probably has the most potential of any guy on the line (especially if you don’t consider the true freshmen).  He was solid last season in his starting spot but has had the breakout that fans and coaches have hoped for.  He should be a force in the middle and his penetration will be a key in stop the run game.  Evan Hudson is a converted tight end who looks like he’s set to start next to Shelton.   The position is listed as a defensive end because the team runs a bit of a 3-4 defense but really Hudson is almost like a defensive tackle as well.  He’s another tall guy who weighs in at 280.  Maybe the defensive line was in such bad shape that they need Evan to start or maybe he truly is that talented on this side of the ball.  I’m guessing it’s a mix of both but I do feel a bit uneasy about him coming in and starting right away.  The rush end spot is up for grabs with Josh Shirley, Corey Littleton, and Hau’oli Kikaha (formerly Hau’oli Jamora) all battling for the starting spot.  Shirley has been a very one-dimensional player in the past in always just trying to speed rush right past the tackle.  With that being said, he is probably the best pass rusher the Huskies have and could challenge for double-digit sacks this year.  Littleton saw a few games last season as a true freshman and played about how you’d expect a freshman on the line to play.  He’s said to be much improved in practice and may have been playing in front of Shirley at times during the camp.  Hau’oli has suffered 2 straight ACL tears in the last 2 seasons and has battled back to have an impressive Fall Camp.  Before the tears, he was one of the Huskies best defensive players.  If he can get to that level, the Huskies pass rush will definitely be a much stronger force.  The rush end position is one of the more intriguing spots on the team with three talented guys at one position.  I will be excited to watch it play out over the season
The Depth – DE Joe Mathis (Fr.), DT Sione Potoa’e (Sr.), Lawrence Lagafuaina (RJr.), DT Josh Banks (Sr.), DT Drew Schultz (RJr.), DE Connor Cree (RSo.), DE Jarrett Finau (RSo.), DT Elijah Qualls (Fr.), Damion Turpin (RFr.), DT Taniela Tupou (RSo.), DE Marcus Farria (Fr.)
The depth on the D-line is slowly improving during Sark’s tenure.  This group of players could look really good in a year or two but for now there are a few decent guys and then question marks.  Joe Mathis, a freshman, is challenging for a starting spot and will probably play this year.  If he doesn’t redshirt, which is highly unlikely, expect to see him on the field quite a bit.  Potoa’e, Banks, and Schultz have all played enough defensive tackle to feel okay about.  Potoa’e was a very impressive recruit but has never reached his, thought to be, potential.  Lagafuaina tore his ACL last year and is still getting up to speed, but when he’s in the game he takes up a lot of space in the middle.  Cree and Finau saw limited action last year and provide decent depth.  Qualls may or may not redshirt but he was a heralded recruit.  The other guys might get some action in the game but have figured in to the rotation as prominently as the guys I have listed above them.  Farria will probably redshirt.

Linebackers:
Starters – OLB Shaq Thompson (So.), MLB John Timu (Jr.), OLB Travis Feeney (RSo.)
On paper, this is easily the best position group on the team.  They are quick, young and physical.  They close fast to the ball and could be the best position group the team has had in years.  In my last post, I said ASJ was the best player the Huskies have had in at least a decade.  By the end of Thompson’s career here, he could hold that title.  Shaq is incredibly talented, bringing a mix of speed and size that you don’t see often.  He could be an All-American by the end of the season.  Timu continues to grow and improve.  He was very impressive in a few games last year draws rave reviews from the coaching staff for his intelligence.  Timu did struggle against power teams last year and I wonder if that has improved this season. As good as the other two were last year, Feeney may have been the best linebacker on the team.  He also has great speed and loves to hit people.  All of these guys were safeties in high school and you can see that athleticism in their linebacking.  The only concern is against the power teams of the world.
The Depth:  Princeton Fuimaono (Sr.), Thomas Tutogi (Sr.), Jamaal Kearse (RJr.), Scott Lawyer (RSo.), Connor O’Brien (Fr.), Azeem Victor (Fr.), Keishawn Bierria (Fr.), Sean Constantine (Fr.)
The depth helps make this position the best on the team.  Fuimaono has been challenging Feeney for his starting spot and will be the first guy off the bench as a linebacker.  Princeton can probably play both outside linebacker positions.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see a package where the three starting linebackers are on the field with Fuimaono.  This coaching staff is pretty good at getting their best players on the field.  Tutogi proved to be a valuable piece of the puzzle last year at middle linebacker.  He played quite a bit against the power teams and was a very physical force.  I’m curious to see if he’ll play in Timu’s spot against power teams on running downs.  I expect to see a lot of Tutogi and Fuimaono on the field plenty this year. Kearse has had an interesting career and is a very capable backup.  He’s started a few games in his career and come up with some big plays.  Lawyer has impressed people in camp and will start to see a lot of time come next year.  He’ll play on special teams quite a bit this year.  I’m hoping all of the freshmen get to redshirt but some may have to be used on special teams.  They’re an impressive group with a lot of size.   Continue reading

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Getting To Know Your Dawgs – Defensive Line

Matthew wrote a post a couple of hours ago that is previewing the Husky team as a whole.  I’m posting over it a little bit too soon, so here’s the link because you should go read it.

We’re to the defensive side of the ball in this series and I’ll probably only keep the defensive side to three posts.  Like the offensive line post (which is a few scrolls down from this one), the player information will be less than a skill position.  Linemen don’t often have much to say and I am not able to analyze them as well.  Plus, there’s a lot of them.  I’ll try to cover everyone who will play and I’ll start with the guys who are listed as the starters.  The guys who are going to red-shirt or are buried on the depth chart probably won’t be listed.  If you have any questions about them, leave it in the comments.  Also, Hau’oli Jamora is injured and looks like he could be out all season so I’m going to leave him off on this post.  And here we go!

DE – Talia Crichton (Sr.)

Every time I’ve heard it mentioned this camp that Crichton was a senior I did a double-take.  It seems weird to me.  Talia was a guy who probably should have red-shirted his first year but the depth wasn’t so good and he was needed.  He was over-matched that year and never has been a huge factor on the defense.  Now, he gets his chance as a senior, with Jamora out, to make a real contribution.  The coaches all say that he’s had a good camp (although, what else would they say?) and has gotten better and better.  He has definitely beefed up since his younger years, playing at 265.  With that being said, he is probably the biggest question mark on the line and doesn’t have proven depth behind him.

NT – Danny Shelton (So.)

I think there are a few guys on the defense that we can expect to take a big step forward this year and Danny leads that charge.  A lot has been thrown at the big fella but he looks to be ready to handle it.  With the Dawgs switching to a quicker, smaller defensive line this year, Shelton has to be the guy that stops the run.  He needs to demand double teams so he can let the athletes at safety and linebacker to make the play.  The coaches wouldn’t have tried this defense if they didn’t think Shelton was capable so I think we have to trust their judgment.  I think by the end of the season, Shelton will be one of the three best players on the defense and he showed flashes of that last year.  This is all as a true sophomore, by the way.

DE – Andrew Hudson (RS So.)

This position could also be called defensive tackle.  If you look at the defense as a 3-4 (3 defensive linemen, 4 linebackers), then Hudson is the defensive end.  I think of it more as a 4-3, which I’ll get into more in a minute.  Hudson had to add some weight to play this position and will also be counted on to help against the run.  Just to reiterate the point, this is not a tradition defensive end position.  Hudson started 2 games last year at end and played in all of them.  He was another guy who got better as the season wore on and I think we’ll see a big improvement from him this season.  When the Huskies play against teams that want to pound the ball down our throat (think Stanford, LSU, and Utah) I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hudson move over and share time with Crichton, leaving this space for Tokolahi and Potoa’e  Before I move on, keep an eye on how young these guys are.  It’s the same theme as the offensive line, there are a whole lot of sophomores.  I think that’s when a good share of guys show the most progress (especially if they’ve red-shirted).

Rush End – Josh Shirley (RS So.)

This is a new position to the defense that many aren’t familiar with.  This position, in my mind, is still a part of the defensive line but the player may be standing up more (like a linebacker).  The focus of this position is to rush the quarterback so a guy who stands up and rushes off the edge will be playing here.  Josh Shirley is that guy.  He came to U-Dub after being kicked off the UCLA team a couple of weeks after he went to school there.  It turned out that the incident wasn’t a big deal and after a red-shirt year and a solid freshman campaign, people are expecting big things from Shirley.  This position was essentially made for him and he should be solid in it.  He’s a little undersized to be considered a conventional defensive end but his quickness is what will scare teams.  He had a great game against Baylor in the Alamo Bowl and looks to continue that going forward.  Don’t be surprised if once in a while he isn’t rushing, but will stand up and drop into coverage.  That probably won’t happen much but it will enough times to make the quarterback think of it.

5 Others To Watch:  DE – Pio Vatuvei (Fr.), N/DT – Semisi Tokolahi (RS Sr.), NT – Lawrence Lagafuaina (RS So.), DE/T – Sione Potoa’e (Jr.), RE – Connor Cree (RS Fr.)

Pio Vatuvei will probably be slowly mixed into the rotation.  He is a freshman that flipped from USC to U-Dub late last year in the recruiting game.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he had an impact like Hau’oli Jamora did his freshman year.  If he does, that would be a huge boost to this Husky defensive line.  Semisi Tokolahi was great in 2010.  He was one of the best lineman on the team and then he broke his leg in the Apple Cup and never made it all the way back last year.  I expect him to start (or play a lot) against running teams.  I’ve read from many places that he looks fully recovered from the injury.  Lawrence Lagafuaina is another big guy who could fill the middle.  He’s got a few guys in front of him on the depth chart but he’ll be used in goal line packages to stop the run.  Sione Potoa’e is a little bit of a forgotten man.  He came to U-Dub as a heralded recruit, and rightfully so.  He had to play his true freshman year and that may have hurt his development or confidence.  He still has the makings of a very good player.  He’s another guy I’d expect to see in against running teams quite a bit.  This is the most quality depth the Huskies have had at defensive tackle in quite some time.  I expect to see Connor Cree in on special teams more than anything else.  He is built like Josh Shirley and could be valuable rushing off the edge.

Thanks for reading!

Andrew

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National Signing Day Thread

NEMBOT TO COLORADO — The last piece the Huskies could have potentially added was Stephan Nembot, but he picked Colorado instead.  That leaves this class at 23 guys.

NICE RECAP — This is a nice little round-up of every player that has signed so far, via gohuskies.com.

PAUL WULFF — Here’s a Paul Wulff chat with some Cougar fans earlier today.  I know it’s hard to reflect excitement through typing, but he sure doesn’t try.  This seems like the opposite of Sark.

SURPRISE! — While I was away, taking a test, the Huskies announced that they signed a JC player named Antavius Sims.  I know nothing about him other than he will either play quarterback or safety.  He will be a junior.  Here’s his bio.  As far as names go, this is about as good as it gets.  I’ve always wanted to cheer on a player named Antavius.

I’ll have more notes after I watch Sark’s press conference. (12:40)

SLOWING DOWN — The news has stopped for a while and so I’m going to slow down on the blog for a while.  Sark’s press conference is at noon, and I’ll be back with some thoughts from that this afternoon along with any news that comes out.  Go Dawgs!

NUMBERS BY POSITION UPDATE —

QB – 1
RB – 1
FB – 1
WR – 4
TE – 1
OL – 2
DL – 3
LB – 6
CB – 1
S – 2

Just a few observations on those numbers:  Obviously, the thing that jumps out at you is the number of linemen.  There’s only 5 linemen so far.  That’s a small number but this was considered a very weak class of lineman on the west coast.  Last year was far better, and the Dawgs signed 5 offensive linemen last year.  Next year is also supposed to be better.  Hopefully, Nembot commits but I wouldn’t worry too much about the numbers there.

The coaches did a good job of loading up at linebacker, where the Huskies lost the most last year.

The Huskies only lost one cornerback from last year, so only signing one there isn’t a problem.

Also, the running back position is pretty loaded, so only signing one isn’t a surprise at all.  Dezden Petty isn’t necessarily just a fullback either.  Some people envision him as a Lendale White type of guy (the USC version).

VAN ACKEREN GONE — Bellevue high senior, Kendrick Van Ackeren,  has signed with Hawaii.  I thought he’d be offered late by the Huskies with Jackson ending up at Cal but it might have been too late if that happened.

IS THIS IT? — The Huskies have received 21 LOI today (22 if you count Tutogi) and everyone who was expected to sign has.  Now, we’re waiting on Stephan Nembot and Pauley Asiata to officially announce.  The Dawgs seem to have a much better chance with Nembot than Asiata.  Anyone else who signs with the Huskies would be a surprise. (9:27)

ANNOUNCEMENT TIMES — Stephan Nembot, an offensive lineman, is set to announce whether he’s going to Colorado or UW at 2:00 today.  Because of the lack of lineman in this class, this is a pretty important player to pick up.  Jacoby Brisset, who is a long shot to pick UW, is set to pick his school on Friday.  (9:21)

BIO’S — I haven’t been linking many bio’s lately because I’m usually posting before they update.  They are on this page, just scroll down a little bit.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…. —- In baseball news, Chris Jakubauskas has signed with the Orioles.  Bummer.  (This is a joke)

WOODWARD ON KJR — Scott Woodward, UW’s athletic director, will be on KJR in just a couple of minutes.

5 TIMES’ BLUE CHIPPERS IN — All 5 of the Seattle Times’ Washington state blue chip recruits have now signed with Washington.  Condotta reported that this is the first time that’s ever happened.  Those 5 players are ASJ, Kasen Williams, Danny Shelton, Bishop Sankey, and Taniela Tupou. (9:09)

DANNY SHELTON IN — Another highly rated guy from Washington is in and that is Danny Shelton.  The Huskies won the battle for Shelton’s services with Oregon.  He’s a defensive lineman.  (9:05)

JAMES SAMPLE IN — S James Sample is in.  He’s a highly rated S out of California.  He’s expected to compete with Taz Stevenson and Sean Parker in future years at the SS position.  That area has really become a strength of the team.  (9:00)

UP TO TWENTY — I think that puts this class at 20.  Things will probably slow down now.  There haven’t been any surprises so far, aside from Jackson to California.  Condotta is doing an interview on KJR right now.  He has pretty good insight into some things.

MARCUS PETERS IN — The first cornerback of the class has now signed, Marcus Peters.  He’s also from California.  (8:55)

FEENEY AND TUFUNGA IN — Travis Feeney who is either a safety or linebacker has just signed.  Also, Siosifa Tufunga, an OL from California, is now in.  He’s just the second offensive lineman to sign as of right now.  (8:52)

LINKS — Here’s a link to the live chat they have going on at gohuskies.com.  Here’s another link to Bob Condotta’s Husky blog.  Everyone’s reporting pretty much the same thing, but they’re probably doing a little bit better job of it than me.

LYON’S IN — Matthew Lyon’s, a linebacker out of California, has now signed with Washington.  ROAR!  (8:47)

SANKEY IN — G00d news, as Bishop Sankey has signed his LOI now.  He’s the only, true running back in this class and is one of the highest rated backs on the west coast. (8:39) Here’s his bio

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UW Recruiting- Defensive Line

On to the defense.

Defensive Tackle

Commits

Danny Shelton  6’3″ 286 lbs.  Auburn HS (WA)

Maataua Brown  6’5″ 295 lbs.  Paramount HS (WA)

Possibilities

Uriah Grant  6’1″ 285 lbs.  Fullerton JC (CA)

According to Scout, Grant is the only remaining DT with a UW offer.  They also say UW is currently in the lead to land him, so we’ll see how it plays out.  He would really complete this class.

Overview

The Huskies missed out on several elite DT recruits before landing Shelton.  He was one of the most important commits in the class, as a local guy at a position of need who was also considering Oregon, among others.  Brown is a big, good prospect, but it sounds like it’s a toss up whether he’ll have the grades to get into school.  Grant would be a good pick up if Brown doesn’t make it in, although adding JC guys is always dicy in itself.  This is a good group, if not quite what Husky fans would have liked when DTs like Viliami Moala and Todd Barr were still considering UW.

Defensive End

Commits

Taniela Tupou  6’2″ 260 lbs.  Archbishop Murphy HS (WA)

Aubrey Coleman  6’6″ 215 lbs.  Walnut HS (WA)

Connor Cree  6’4″ 220 lbs.  Skyline HS (WA)

Possibilities

UW still has a number of offers out, but none of them are overly noteworthy.  I don’t expect this group to change much before signing day.  Then again, I know pretty much nothing about it, so who knows.

Overview

This looks like a sneaky good group.  Tupou is a four star guy, Scout’s 26th DE in the nation.  He committed so long ago that he’s become something of a forgotten man to a degree.  Coleman is one of the more intriguing players in the class.  ESPN has him in the top 150 recruits in the country, but Scout’s not quite as high on him.  He sounds like a freak athlete who plays wide receiver for his high school, but his position in college is unclear.  DE seems the most likely, but he could end up at TE, WR, or even some linebacker hybrid type position.  Cree is another local boy who looks like a good athlete as well.  Once again, I don’t know much, but I’d expect this group to make some noise in a few years.

-Matthew

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Countdown to Camp: Recruiting

5 days until camp!  Today, we’ll look at some of the 2011 recruits who have committed and might commit to play football at Washington.  Sark and staff have had a great start to this class and it has potential to get a way better.  Let’s take a look at some players.

Verbal Commits (as  reported by Scout.com):

Jarett Finau- TE (Offered by Arizona, BYU, Hawaii, Utah State, and WSU)
Scott Lawyer- OLB
Josh Perkins- WR (Offered by Minnesota, New Mexico St., San Diego St., San Jose St.)
Jamaal Jones- WR (Offered by Idaho and WSU)
Connor Cree- DE (Offered by ASU, Boise St., Colorado St., Uconn, Idaho, WSU, Wyoming)
Matthew Lyons- OLB
Dexter Charles- OT (Offered by Arizona and WSU)
Taniela Tupou- DE (Offered by BYU and WSU)
Kameron Jackson- CB (Offered by Boise St. and WSU)
Aubrey Coleman- DE (Offered by ASU)
Maataua Brown- DT
Elijhaa Penny- FB (Offered by UNLV)
Evan Zeger- S (Offered by ASU, BYU, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, UCLA, UNLV, WSU)

Note: Some offers don’t get recorded by Scout.  Some people might have more offers that are not on here.  These recruits will also be getting more offers as the year goes on.

There’s not a ton to say about these guys, as many of them haven’t been scouted by the big sites (rivals and scout).  One of the best things about this list is the group of guys that are from Washington.  There are 5 guys from Washington as Sark continues to put the so-called ‘fence around the state.’  It’s also good to see the amount of defensive lineman on that list.  That is a serious need for the Dawgs.

The Big Three (Plus a few more):

Brett Hundley- QB
Hundley is one of the highest ranked quarterbacks in the nation.  He hails from Arizona and is down to two schools, UW and UCLA.  Hundley has great size (6-4, 217) and good mobility (4.65 40-time).  UCLA has received a committment from a quarterback a few weeks ago so that could be a good sign for us.  This is one of the first times Neuheisel and Sark have gone toe-to-toe for a great recruit.  Except for Josh Shirley.  Hmm… That’s weird.  I have a good feeling about our chances with Hundley.

Kasen Williams- WR
Kasen is rated as the best receiver recruit on the west coast by most sources.  He has narrowed his list to UW, Cal, Notre Dame, LSU, and Florida.  That is a big-time list.  Williams goes to Skyline and both his parents went to U-Dub.  My guess is that he ends up a Husky.  Here’s to hoping!

Austin Seferian-Jenkins- TE
Jenkins might be the most coveted of these three and he might be the hardest to get.  Jenkins if from Gig Harbor and is down to Texas and Washington (although he’s said Florida and Alabama are in the mix also).  He’s visiting Texas this week and we’ll know his decision on August 16th.  Condotta thinks he’s a UW lean and he usually knows best when it comes to all things Husky.  I’m not so sure this time but I hope so!

Brendon Bigelow- RB
Bigelow is one of the best running backs on the west coast and is actually listed as a commit to UW.  Unfortunately, he’s going to continue to look around.  Washington was the first school to offer, he jumped on that chance and now is having second thoughts, more or less.  He has spent a ton of time at California lately and I would not be surprised to see him end up there.  This whole situation reminds of Keanon Lowe with Oregon last year.  That’s not good news.

DeAnthony Thomas- CB
Here’s a quote by scout Scott Kennedy about Thomas, “The only player I’ve ever said that could legitimately be 5-Stars at four different positions, RB, S, CB, WR. The only thing that keeps Thomas from being the #1 prospect in the country is that he’s on the small side. But his combination of raw speed, change of direction, balance, and natural athleticism is at the top of the heap. His long-term future may best be served at corner where his size isn’t a liability.”  Unfortunately, Thomas is a soft commit to USC (like Bigelow is to us) and looks to be headed there.  He is visiting for the Nebraska game and that gives us a little hope.  

It’d be awesome if 3 of these 5 guys committed.  If 4 of 5 did then the Dawgs might have a top 5 class in the nation.  This class is off to a great start and if a few things break the right way this could be something special.  Go get ’em Sark!

Andrew

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