Tag Archives: Jamaal Kearse

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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2012 UW Huskies: It’s Time for Football

I feel like I should write some kind of preview for the Huskies, but I can’t think of any clever or particularly interesting way to do it.  There are tons of previews out there, most of them much better than anything I can offer.  Still, the best day of the year comes this Saturday, so here goes nothing.  I’m just going to give the things I’m concerned with for this year’s team and the things I’m excited about, with the (potentially) bad stuff first.  In no particular order…

Things That Make Me Nervous

  • The new defense.  This one’s complicated, because I think the defense will be much improved (see below).  The problem is that they have a long way to come.  One of the coaches noted that, while the team has looked great in practice, sometimes players get into games and forget what they’re supposed to be doing, especially with a new scheme.  The talent looks improved enough to be at least average, other than possibly the…
  • Linebackers.  The bane of last year’s defense (at least on the field) do look improved, but they have plenty of issues as well.  After receiving a bunch of new bodies from the safeties this spring, they proceeded to average an injured linebacker a day through much of fall camp.  Nate Fellner and Jamaal Kearse are still out for a couple of games, but everyone else is now back.  The enlarged John Timu at middle linebacker has been drawing accolades and should be the one constant throughout the year.  Princeton Fuimaono is probably the number two guy right now.  Former safety Travis Feeney is holding down Fellner’s spot, although Shaquille Thompson will take over a good share of the time in the nickel package.  There’s talent, speed and athleticism here.  Now it just needs to translate to tackles.
  • The offensive tackles.  File this under lack of experience as well.  Both tackles, Micah Hatchie and Ben Riva, left and right respectively, have seen little or no game action.  They have lots of talent and the practice reports are good, but only games will show if they’re actually ready.  I’m optimistic, but without Chris Polk, this line needs to be a strength.  Unless these two excel, it will likely be average at best.
  • The new home field.  Century Link is a great place to play, and it should still be plenty loud, but it’s tough having to adjust to a new routine and a new home.  You know those first couple of months after you move into a new house or apartment?  No matter how nice a place it is and how excited you are to be there, it takes a while to feel completely comfortable.  Hopefully, the adjustment for the Dawgs will be short and easy, with no effects on the field. Continue reading

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Getting To Know Your Dawgs – Wide Receiver

Camp is almost half over and the first game is 2 weeks away.  It seems as if training camp has brought a new injury with it everyday.  When you list everything out (which I will do after I run through the wide receivers) it doesn’t look as bad as what the perception is.

I’ve written about quarterbacks, running backs, and fullbacks so far in this series and I move on to receiver today.  The position is going through what seems to be a little bit of a face lift this year, with Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar graduating.  Those two had very good careers at U-Dub, although they both came with their fair share of frustrations.  Most fans agree that, while the 2012 group is young, they have a good amount of talent and shouldn’t see a huge drop off in production.  On to the names!  I’ll include most players (I will probably leave off some walk-ons who I don’t see as contributors this year).  The order I list them is in the order I perceive as the current depth chart.

Kasen Williams (SO.)

I was just reading Ted Miller’s blog (which is fantastic) and he was asked to compare Kasen Williams and Marquess Wilson.  He said that it wasn’t a fair comparison in comparing someone who is an All-American and someone who is mostly based on potential at this point.  This is exactly right.  Kasen Williams has as much potential as any receiver in the Pac-12 and maybe the country.  No, really he does.  He flashed it at times last year but he has hardly proven himself.  He’s not in the Pac-12 elite but I would be surprised if he wasn’t in that group by the end of the season.  Every Husky fan (and a few WSU fans) have the picture of Kasen leaping over a defensive back in the Apple Cup cemented into their memory bank and these are the type of plays that we hope to see all year.  Last year, Kasen caught 36 passes for 427 yards.  I expect him to double those yards.  By all accounts, Williams should be a star at some point, the question is if that will happen this year.  I sure hope so.

James Johnson (SR.) 

James Johnson has had an interesting career as a Husky.  He scored the first touchdown of the Sark era, as a true freshman.  Johnson then went on to have a great freshman year (39 catches for 422 yards), particularly in the first half.  He was then injured before his sophomore year and somehow got lost in the mix at the position.  He never really saw the field, aside from a few plays here and there.  Last year brought something of a comeback for Johnson (28 receptions for 366 yards).  He would have a few great games (Nebraska comes to mind) and then disappear for a game it seemed.  He did miss a few games due to injury.  This year is off to an ominous start, as he’s suffered a dislocated wrist and a few torn ligaments.  Sarkisian said that he’ll be out 4-6 weeks.  This is a blow to the Dawgs for the first few games as most people had James penciled in as the number 2 receiver.

Cody Bruns (RS SR.)

Speaking of interesting careers, I’m not sure any player could top Bruns in that category.  Cody Bruns played in his first game half way through his freshman year because Ty wanted to run some trick plays.  Cody would get on the field for about 3 plays a game and it wasn’t usually to catch passes.  Bruns was a bit lost in the depth his sophomore year and then played a little more his junior year.  He’s been labeled as a player who could do everything from holding on field goals, to passing the ball, to punt coverage, to actually receiving.  Last year, he was dealt an emotional blow as his father passed away.  The coaches and Bruns decided that a redshirt year would be best for all involved.  Now Bruns enters his last year and figures to be an integral part in the receiving corps.  He may be used in a more conventional way than usual but don’t be surprised to see him be on the field in many different capacities.  He has surprising speed and is said to be a sharp route runner.

Kevin Smith (JR.)

It’s easy to forget that Kevin Smith didn’t play all 4 years of high school football.  He started later but his athletic ability made up for however raw he was.  Now he’s an upper class-man who could be a pretty big contributor (208 yards receiving last year).  Smith is still recovering from an ACL injury and could be limited for the first month of the season.  If he does come back to 100% healthy, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s one of the Huskies 4 best receivers.  You may also see him back returning kicks and showing off his speed.

Jaydon Mickens (FR.)

Mickens was rated as a four-star recruit coming out of California and has been turning heads in the first 2 weeks of camp.  He has even been running with the starters in the last couple of days due to injuries ahead of him and his good play.  Mickens is the smallest of the receivers (5-10, 170) but has a ton of speed.  He’s almost assured to play this year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start in 2 weeks.

Kendyl Taylor (FR.)

Much of what I said about Mickens rings true for Taylor.  He was a highly rated recruit coming out of Arizona who has been making plenty of plays thus far in camp.  He’s also 5-10 but a little bulkier than Mickens.  His high school mascot was a Husky so that’s cool, I guess.  Taylor will see plenty of playing time, especially as Johnson and Smith work their way back as the season progresses.  Sure, these 2 freshmen probably have their best days a few years down the road but we don’t have the luxury to wait for that since the Dawgs need them now.  I’m guessing they’ll come through with only a few hiccups along the way.

A few more guys and notes after the jump. Continue reading

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