Tag Archives: Tristan Vizcaino

Your 2014 UW Huskies Defensive Preview

Defense wins championships, I’ve heard. I’m not sure that’s always true, but should the Huskies win a championship, the defense will likely be the main reason why. This is the most loaded UW has been on this side of the ball in a long time. It does have some issues on the back end I’ll discuss below, but if they can sort those out, points could be few for UW opponents. Offense was covered here, if you missed it.

Defensive Line

With the coaching change, it’s hard to be sure what the defensive alignment is going to look like. Players and positions are being moved around a bit, but it’s unclear how that will actually look onfield. For my purposes, I’m considering players where they played last year. For example, and as a good place to start, Hauoli Kikaha was a defensive end last year, but they’re listing him at linebacker now. I imagine his new role will be similar to Wilcox’s Rush End, where he can be moved around some and plays in space and coverage a bit more. Whatever the specifics, Kikaha will be rushing the passer, and if last year was a starting point and not a peak, he will cause massive amounts of havoc. Kikaha overcame knee issues and lots of time off to turn in one of the better pass rushing seasons in UW history. He had the most sacks of any returning player in the nation, and if he builds on 2013 at all, he could be an All-American and 1st round pick.

While Kikaha gets more credit, big Danny Shelton is the true key to the defense. The massive tackle blossomed last year, eating up blockers for other guys to get into the backfield. At his best, Shelton occupies two or three blockers, clogging the inside of the line and preventing running plays from going whichever direction was planned. Shelton was extremely effective last year, but if he can find a bit more burst and get into the backfield with regularity, he’ll be in the discussion for the best D tackles in college football. It’ll be important to keep Shelton on the field, because the depth behind him is quite young. RS frosh Elijah Qualls has loads of potential, so it was surprising to see less heralded true freshman Greg Gaines listed above him on this week’s depth chart. That may be as much about Gaines having a bigger body as anything to do with their performance. Both have good to great potential, but there will be a noticeable drop-off when Shelton leaves the field.

Completing the line are the Hudson brothers (not really brothers) Evan and Andrew. Both are cool stories. Evan was a walk-on from Bothell who started out at TE. Last year they moved him to the line, and he started most of the year as a big end/smallish tackle. I kind of think of him as playing a similar role to what Red Bryant did for the Seahawks, where he did more to hold the edge or occupy guys than make plays in the backfield. That said, I have no idea what his role will be this year, or what kind of upside he still has in him. He could become a star or lose his job to a younger guy and I wouldn’t be surprised. Andrew Hudson was a starter early in his career before rarely seeing the field last year, leading the old staff to decide it was time for him to move on. Peterson had other thoughts and invited him back, and now he’s slated to start. He never showed a huge amount of explosiveness, but he used to be a serviceable starter. No idea what he’ll do this year. LIke at tackle, the depth here is talented but young. I’d feel better about guys like Jojo Mathis, Jarrett Finau and Psalm Wooching seeing the field, though. They’ve at least gotten their feet wet, and there are some interesting skills there.

Linebacker

This could be as good as any backer group in the conference. John Timu is finally a senior and has developed into a dependable leader in the middle. He’s not an elite athlete, but he makes up for it with great instincts and a nose for the ball. Shaq Thompson has not quite delivered on his talent and athleticism, which isn’t to say he hasn’t been excellent. He has. He just has so much potential, that anything short of a dominant year would be a bit of a disappointment. Maybe that’s not fair, but he’s capable. The third spot is a bit undecided, but it’s not for a lack of good options. At times, Travis Feeney has looked like the best backer on the roster. He’s listed as a co-starter with RS freshman Keishawn Bierria. Both are lighter guys who can cover ground and be effective in pass protection. Bierria’s fellow RS freshmen Azeem Victor and Sean Constantine are in the depth and should see time. Victor in particular is developing a rep as a big hitter and could become a fan favorite before long. Scott Lawyer is the long experienced reserve besides Cory Littleton, who’s become a bit of a forgotten man with some minor injuries in camp. I don’t know if he’ll serve as more a linebacker or a rusher, but he should make his presence felt at some point.

Secondary

If there’s one area that could hold the team back (other than QB), it could be the secondary. UW is replacing 3 of 4 starters along with some key reserves, and all of the contenders for those spots are young. Luckily, the one returning starter is CB Marcus Peters, and he’s one of the best in the country. Peters is the latest and maybe the best in the Dawgs’ recent run of excellent corners. If he has the season everyone expects, he’ll likely go pro and be picked in the top round or two. Opposite him, RSFr. Jermaine Kelly looks to be the guy. He’s a tremendous athlete who’s received nothing but raves since he showed up on the recruiting radar. He’ll likely have some growing pains at times, but I expect him to look like the Huskies’ next star corner by the end of the year. Depth will come from senior Travell Dixon, who seems to have responded well to the coaching change, and some true freshman. Naijiel Hale and Sidney Jones are first up, and both have the talent to excel. Whether they can do so this year is the question.

Safety is replacing both spots, but it has a bit more returning talent. Of course, the guy turning heads is true freshman Budda Baker from Bellevue. He brings a small body but elite speed and football instincts. He’s slated to start opening night, and he should be the most exciting Husky freshman since Shaq. Opposite him at strong safety is Brandon Beaver. He was a touted recruit who didn’t play much last season, but he’s still only a sophomore. Behind him are two sophomores who saw lots of time as true freshman last year, Kevin King and Trevor Walker. Both played well at time last year. Expect to see all four of these guys on the field in different coverages and as the coaches try to find the right combinations.

Special Teams

UW lost do-everything kicker Travis Coons, so these spots are a little unsettled. Cameron Van Winkle has recovered from back issues to take the lead for field goal duty, and he and Tristan Vizcaino will handle kick-offs. Kory Durkee gets first crack at punter. He has a huge leg but has struggled previously with consistency and getting his kicks off.

John Ross returns as the kick returner, where he’s a threat to break one every time. Budda backs him up and has similar potential. Jaydon Mickens gets the call to return punts. UW hasn’t received much production there, but Mickens and others have the skills to be effective.

Go Dawgs!

-Matthew

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Who are these Dawgs? Offense

Andrew did a nice job recapping the defenders in the Huskies 2014 recruiting yesterday.  I’ll be honest: he got the more interesting of the two groups.  Between Budda, Kaleb McGary and all those defensive backs, there’s a lot of talent and potential on the defensive side of the class.

The offense has plenty of intrigue as well, though.  It’s short on elite recruits, but there are plenty of guys who should contribute and could really blossom.  Under-the-radar recruits are and will be a theme of Petersen’s recruiting.  That’s true for everywhere outside of USC and Alabama, but Petersen provides more confidence these sleepers will turn into contributors, given his track record at Boise State.  We’ll have to wait and see if he has the same success at UW, but this coaching staff turned a lot of lightly regarded recruits into very good players at BSU.

I’ll keep the same format as Andrew, with a quick blurb and the likelihood they’ll play as true freshman.  Barring massive injuries, I expect fewer offensive players to play early.  There just aren’t many major impact guys, and the offensive depth is as good as it’s been in years.  Let’s do this!

QB K.J. Carta-Samuels – It didn’t appear Sarkisian was planning to take a QB in this class, but Petersen wasted no time finding one. His first target, Jaylen Greene, was committed to UW for less than a week before Sarkisian stole him away to USC. It ended up working to UW’s advantage when KJCS became available after Vanderbilt, to whom he had committed long ago, underwent a coaching change of it’s own.  QBs usually commit early, with most of the top guys committed before they ever start their senior seasons.  Getting a four-star, extremely talented guy like KJCS this late was huge and lucky.

Carta-Samuels is a big guy with a big arm. He’s a bit of a project, as his high school didn’t run an advanced offensive system, but he should have plenty of time to improve before he might be needed.  He’s the fourth 4* QB on the roster, and while competition will be tight over the next few years, he could easily be the starter down the road.  Should Cyler Miles find himself suspended or off the team after his recent legal troubles, or if someone else transfers, this signing could end up being huge in 2015 or ’16.  Chance he plays as a true freshman: 2% (barring injury, there’s nearly no chance he plays)

RB Jomon Dotson – Running back might be the place where the coaching change hurt the most.  Sark was in on a couple of the top guys in the country in Joe Mixon and Demario Richard, but Pete was left scrambling a bit.  Dotson isn’t a bad pick-up, but he’s not likely to challenge for time right away.  He’s listed as 6′ 165 lb., so he’ll obviously need to bulk up significantly if that weight is accurate.  What he does bring is true breakaway speed, a dimension the current Husky backs lack.  Even with Sankey’s early departure, the Dawgs have a lot of backs, so don’t expect to see Dotson for a year or two, unless they want his speed on special teams. Chance he plays as a true freshman: 20%

WR Dante Pettis – Pettis might be the most likely to surprise right away.  He’s the cousin of former BSU star Austin, and a lot of people consider him one of the more underrated recruits in the west.  He’s not huge at 6′, but he’s big enough to play outside and is an excellent all-around athlete.  He could play defense if needed, but there’re thin numbers at receiver too, especially if Stringfellow finds himself off the team.  Pettis could fill a roll similar to what Kevin Smith had last year, and he could do it quickly. Chance he plays as a true freshman: 70%

WR/TE Brayden Lenius – Lenius is one of those guys who gives reason to think he could become a star, but given the distance he must go to get there, it’s more likely he won’t.  In his case, the positives start with the fact that he’s 6′ 5″.  Add in good hands and solid speed, and his limited football experience, and the hope is that he can become a major threat on the outside, or at TE should he bulk up significantly.  I wouldn’t bet on it, because Pac-12 football is hard, but he’s worth watching for, and if everything comes together, he could become one of the better receivers in the conference.  Chance he plays as a true freshman: 35%

TE Drew Sample – Sample is a local guy, from Newport High, who had been committed to BSU but flipped almost immediately upon receiving an offer from Petersen at UW.  He’s a fairly traditional tight end, known more for his blocking than receiving, but he has good size and solid athleticism.  I don’t know how the new offense will use the TE, so it’s hard to say a ton more.  Sample does fill a bit of a hole as a blocking-oriented TE, so it’s possible he could see the field early, but more likely he will redshirt to gain some muscle. Chance he plays as a true freshman: 40%

OT Matt James – As long as McGary stays on defense, James appears to be the gem of this offensive line class.  He has good size, and the athleticism and footwork to potentially stay at tackle, where the Dawgs will need bodies soon.  James, from Coeur d’Alene, was one of three UW commits Sark had from Idaho. Strangely, once UW hired a coach from Idaho, that number dropped to one, with Sark taking one to USC and the other eventually switching to BSU.  In my opinion, the Huskies kept the right one in James, given their needs and James’ upside. People who know much more about the offensive line than I do think he could be a star. Chance he plays as a true freshman: 5%

OL John Turner – Turner isn’t highly rated (the same could be said of the next two guys, as well), but that doesn’t always mean a lot on the line.  It’s a hard position to scout and project.  Turner’s recruitment seemed to pick up late in the cycle, and Cal, among others, was on him toward signing day.  Some people seem to like him a lot.  I honestly can’t say.  Sark and Petersen both wanted him, so that’s enough for me at the moment.  He could potentially play RT or guard. Chance he plays as a true freshman: 1% (these next three will all be 1%, but they’re essentially guaranteed to redshirt.  A new staff presents enough questions that I’m not confident enough to claim any absolutes.)

OL Jesse Sosebee – I feel a little bad, but I have almost nothing to say about Jesse.  It’s nothing personal, Jesse!  If you somehow read this and want to do an interview, I’d love to hear more. He’s just a guy that didn’t get a ton of coverage, he’s not highly ranked, and the O line doesn’t lend itself to highlight reels.  Most I’ve seen think he’ll be a guard. Chance he plays as a true freshman: 1%

OL Devin Burleson – Devin’s a really big boy, at 6’7″ (or more) and at least 260 lbs. He’s another who’s new to football in the last couple of years, and he’s been more of a basketball player before this year.  That has some excited, as the basketball footwork is a good sign for an offensive lineman.  He’s like Lenius as a bit of a physical freak with a long way to go to be a star.  As I said before, usually these kind of guys never quite hit their potential, but sometimes they do.  Burleson is certainly worth taking a shot on, and I personally won’t be at all surprised if he’s starting at tackle in a few years. Chance he plays as a true freshman: 1%

K/P/Boss Tristan Vizcaino – Vizcaino seems to be capable of doing pretty much anything related to kicking the football. He has a shot to be Travis Coons 2.0, as he could take over at punter, kicker or kick-offs, or some combination thereof.  He even spurned the Cougars to be a Dawg.  Way to go!  The UW specialist spots are really up for grabs, post-Coons.  K Cameron Van Winkle just underwent back surgery, and there’s a chance he might not make it back.  P Korey Durkee struggled for a few games as a true freshman in 2012, and hasn’t seen the field since.  Hopefully, they return to health/kicking proficiency, but Vizcaino could be a huge signing, and a busy man come fall. Chance he plays as a true freshman: 95%

So there it is. Recruiting for 2015 is already rolling along, by the way, but we’ll wait a while before we get into that.  As always, leave any thoughts or comments below.  We’d love to hear from you. Go Dawgs!

-Matthew

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