Tag Archives: Taz Stevenson

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 – Linebacker

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!

Andrew

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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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