Tag Archives: Sione Potoa’e

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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Recapping Cal and Looking Ahead

On Saturday, the Huskies won a thrilling game against California 31-23.  You’ve all probably either watched the game or read the stories, so there’s not much point in me giving a blow-by-blow recap.  I will point out a few things that stuck out to me.

First of all, what a great birthday.  Saturday was my 21st and I got to spend it with my family and my girlfriend.  As far as I can remember, this was the first time my entire family had gone to a Husky game and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  To many guys, Saturdays are their day off to spend in front of the TV (or at a game) getting some time by themselves and drinking a few beers.  That’s all good and I don’t mind watching a game by myself now and then, but Saturdays in the fall are family affairs at Husky Stadium and I’m so incredibly thankful for that.

It was also a great birthday because the Huskies won.  As we’ve all grown somewhat accustomed to, they won in a nail-biter.  Our Dawgs have won 7 of their last 8 games and only 2 of those wins have been by double digits.  It sure would be nice to beat a time by a couple of touchdowns but, in a ploy to make more people buy season tickets because every game is nerve wracking, the Huskies have decided to make sure they win in the last second, if they win at all.  Matthew and I were talking about if they will ever win in a blow-out.  We decided that will happen in about 2017.

With that paragraph full of sarcasm out of me, it’s amazing how far this program has come in a short amount of time.  This would have been the kind of game the Huskies easily would have lost a few years ago.  A few years ago, this team would have been 1-3 after 4 games.  0-4 wouldn’t be out of the question right now.  Sark has done a phenomenal job and it says a ton about how far he’s taken us when we say that we expect more out of this team.  And we all should expect more because this team can be quite a bit better.

Some bullet holes on the game and what lies ahead after the jump.   Continue reading

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Dawg Days – Day One 2011

The Huskies took the field today for the first time since spring practice.  Sometimes I think these days are bigger for fans than they are for players because the players have been working out all Summer.  In fact, the individual Huskies have probably taken the field many times since spring.  But, today they took the field all together, coaches included, which tells us fans that the games will begin sooner rather than later.

These days seem bigger for fans than for the players but then I think back to my sports playing days.  I think of the training I put in during the off-season (granted, it wasn’t as much as these players).  I remember walking from the snow into a 50 degree hop-factory-turned-batting-cage to hit a little bit and throw a bullpen.  Those days were done out of necessity.  I needed to stay in shape and I needed my skills sharpened.  But, the first day of practice was always significant.  The coaches were actually there and the team was finally working all together to communal goal.  That goal was to win.  Thinking back on those days make me realize that the players are probably a little more jazzed for their first practice than I am.  As much as fans love settling into a stadium with 70,000 other people for a game, the players still love it more.  If they don’t, there’s a problem.

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Filling the Holes – Defense Line

The off-season and Spring symbolizes one thing in college football: Hope.  Hope that your team will get better or repeat the success of last year.  With the Washington football team, there’s a good amount of reason to hope.  We’re entering our 3rd year under a new coaching staff and that is when you see the argument of playing with “the old coaches players'” go out the window.  As Bob Condotta notes in a recent post, this is Sarkisian’s team now.

With that, comes getting to know a few players who will fill in where graduates left.  On defense, the Huskies lose three significant players, along with a few role players.  Here’s who they lose and who will fill the hole that has been left:

Defensive End

Who’s Gone: De’Shon Matthews
Matthews had an interesting career at UW.  He red-shirted his freshman year and showed a good amount of promise in the Spring game and Fall camp, he played sparingly his red-shirt freshman year.  In this time, because of a lack of depth at defensive tackle, Willingham decided that a 260 lb. freshman switch positions was a good idea.  It wasn’t.  From there on out, no one really heard from Matthews.  This year he played a little bit.  With injuries at defensive end, Matthews got some time towards the end of the year and got a start in the Holiday Bowl.  He played well at times, but the Dawgs have better players than him on the roster.

The New Guys:
The Huskies already have some players that have filled in at this spot.  Led by Talia Crichton, Everrette Thompson, Hau’oli Jamora (along with a few backups such as Kaleni Aldrich), most of the players you’ll see at this position next year will look familiar.  There are two guys who will make an impact who red-shirted this year, Andrew Hudson and Josh Shirley.

Hudson came to UW from California in last year’s recruiting class.  It came as a surprise that Hudson red-shirted this year.  He was thought to be the most physically ready of all incoming freshman defensive ends, but it was decided that he should red-shirt and put some weight on.  The roster lists him as only 230 lbs. but he has gotten bigger since then.  The coaches raved about him during bowl practices and said they see him making an impact next year.

Josh Shirley had a confusing road to Washington.  Shirley decided between UCLA and UW on signing day last year and Huskies fans were let down when he picked UCLA.  Then, Shirley ran into some legal trouble in his couple weeks at UCLA, was kicked off the team and immediately transferred to Washington.  Many thought he’d be a linebacker, but the coaches moved him to defensive end.  He was also thought to make an immediate impact, but that didn’t end up happening.  Shirley wasn’t big enough to play right away at defensive end so he took the year to develop.  He was raved about by the end of the year and will be a quick threat off the edge next year.  Expect him to make a big impact in the pass rush.

Defensive Tackle:

Who’s Gone:  Cameron Elisara
Elisara was another guy with an interesting career as a Husky.  He came to UW as a highly rated recruit but never really developed into that guy.  Blame it on a series of stingers that eventually ended his career a few games early.  The Huskies have already dealt with the loss of Elisara and it won’t greatly affect them because of the Alameda Ta’amu and Semisi Tokolahi combination.  I always have felt a little bad for Cameron.  It always seemed that when he would take a step forward he would suffer some nagging injury that would take him out.

The New Guys:
As I mentioned, the main guys at this position are Alameda Ta’amu and Semisi Tokolahi.  I also wouldn’t be surprised if Everrette Thompson moves back inside because of the depth at end.  There are two guys that I think will make an impact that we didn’t hear much from this year, Sione Potoae and Lawrence Lagafuiana.

Sione came to UW as the biggest defensive line commit in recent memory (think Danny Shelton this year, only more hype).  Because of a lack of depth at the position, Sione was forced into playing time.  He wasn’t dominated but he also did it make a big impact for the Dawgs.  Another year of development in the weight room and in practice could turn him into the player his potential suggests he can be.  If he can take a step forward like Tokolahi did this year, the Huskies will have their best group of defensive tackles in over a decade.

Lawrence Lagafuiana is a mammoth man.  He is only 6 feet tall but came to UW weighing about 35o lbs.  He has dropped weight since then, but still takes up a lot of room inside.  He is said to have lots of strength in his lower body, and with his weight he should be able to move people around.  He will add depth next year and will get some playing time.

I’m not including incoming freshmen in this because Matthew recently wrote a series of posts about them.  There are some intriguing commits that could be put in these positions though.  I’ll be back with linebackers and safety soon.

Thanks for reading!

Andrew

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Huskies Post Game: Syracuse

The Huskies got their first win of the year last night at Husky Stadium against Syracuse, 41-20. The Dawgs’ struggled early on; there wasn’t any offensive rhythm and special team’s mistakes led to an early 10-0 lead for the Orange.  But, then the Huskies found it.  They played like the team we had planned on seeing this year.  They outscored Syracuse 41-10 through the rest of the game and it wasn’t much of a contest after the first couple plays in the second half.

Jermaine Kearse had a monster day (9 receptions for 179 yards), as the offense used big plays to dominate.  The defense was solid too.  They gave up two or three big plays but the two touchdowns Syracuse scored were because of a special teams penalty and a turnover.

I’ll review this one by taking a look at each position.  I haven’t been able to find a replay anywhere yet, FSN decided to show a replay of Wyoming and Texas instead, so I won’t be as thorough as I’d like to be but these were my first impressions from being there.  Continue reading

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Good Guys’ 2010-11 NCAA FB Predictions

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