How does the potential 2012 defense compare to the one that Nick Holt took over in 2009?
As we discussed in the previous article former Husky recruiting coordinator Dick Baird feels the Huskies are another thirty quality bodies away from competing at an elite level in the BCS. I think the majority of those thirty bodies need to be allocated to the defense.
Defensive Line - About the same
In 2009 Sark inherited a starting defensive line made up of So. Alameda Ta'amu (Four Year Starter), So. Cameron Elisara (Starter/Bust), Sr Daniel Teo Nesheim (NFL), and Sr. Darrion Jones (Starter/Injuries). Backing them up were So. Tyrone Duncan (Transfer), Jr. Deshon Matthews (Bust), So. Kelani Aldrich (Injuries), So. Everrette Thompson (Starter), RS Craig Noble (Medical Red Shirt).
Three of Sarks 2009 recruits Fr. Semisi Tokolahi (Starter), Fr .Andru Pulu (Transfer), Fr. Talia Chrichton (Back up) played immediately. Promising nose tackle Fr. Chris Robinson (Medical RS) sat out rehabbing a knee injury.
Pulu and Aldrich had the ability to start and be pretty good. Aldrich had a chronic knee problem which caused him to retire a year early without ever coming close to reaching his potential. Pulu was expelled from the University after a brutal attack on another student that earned him jail time.
Heading into 2012 SR Semisi Tokalahi and Sr Talia Chrichton are the lone survivors of that group who at least on paper should have played much better than they did over the past three seasons.
So. Danny Shelton and Sr. Semisi Tokolahi are the probable inside starters in 2012. Shelton did some nice things at the end of the season in a couple of starts. Tokolahi should be closer to 100% after being limited in 2011 while recovering from a leg injury suffered against WSU in 2010.
So. Haouli Jamora suffered a torn ACL early in 2011. He is potentially one of the better DE's in the conference. So. Josh Shirley had his moments on the edge by needs another 20 solid pounds to hold his own.
So. Lawrence Lagafuiana, Jr. Sione Potoae, So. Andrew Hudson, and Sr Talia Chrichton are the key backups. The reviews were mixed on Lagafuiana. Potoae was limited early with chronic knee pain. He got some reps but didn't really impress. Hudson has a bright future. He played inside and out last season.
RS Taniela Topou is guy who will push for time at three technique. RS Corey Waller is a speed guy who will apprentice behind Josh Shirley. RS Justin Finau is another kid that will push for time because he adds some size that is missing on the edge.
So is this current group better than what Sark started with in 2009? I don't know if it is potentially any better or even deeper than when they took over.
The graduation of Alameda Ta'amu will certainly be felt in the middle. I think Shelton could end up being better but it will take some time. The teams lacks size on the ends. Shirley and Hudson could use another 20 pounds apiece. Jamora and Tokalahi need to return at full strength from injury or it could be another long season for this group. It would be nice if Tupou and Finau broke out this spring and started pushing for meaningful time in the rotation.
Help is definitely needed from the recruiting trail. Washington will take up to six defensive linemen in 2012. Some of that emphasis will be on increasing size and speed out on the edge. True nose tackles are at a premium this season and UW will be very lucky if they end up closing on one.
Linebacker - Younger...faster... smaller... yet to prove themselves
Back in 2009 Sark inherited a pretty good looking group of linebackers that included four athletes with NFL potential. Remember when UW went toe to toe with LSU and upset USC? Those guys were partly responsible for that.
Sr. EJ Savannah (Starter), Jr. Mason Foster (NFL), Sr. Donald Butler (NFL). Backed up by Sr. Jon Gage (Walk On), Sr. Trenton Tuiasosopo (1-B Starter), and So.Cort Dennison (All Pac 12) who eventually replaced EJ at OLB was making his move.
Jr. Vic Aiyewa was about to make a move to LB from safety (two years to late). Jr. Matt Houston was in the depth and played a bit on special teams. Fr. Jordan Wallace (Bust), RS. Kurt Mangum (Bust), So. Alvin Logan (Medical RS) had moved over from safety after starting out at wide receiver. Fr. Tim Tucker (Moved to FB) were all buried trying to find their way. Undersized RS Bradley Roussel never made out of the dog house after being caught with ganga at the dorms and left the team during the spring.
Heading into 2012 can you find four linebackers on the roster with NFL potential?
Back in 2009 this unit was top heavy with experience and NFL talent. Three seasons later this unit is one of the youngest on the team. Jr. Thomas Tutogi takes over for defensive MVP Cort Dennison in the middle. Tutogi flashed potential here and there on special teams in 2011. He has the size and speed you like to see at the position.
So. John Timu and Jr. Princeton Fuimaono had some rough moments learning on the job last season which is to be expected from first and second year players. They need to put that experience to use and add some size to move to the next level in 2012.
So. Jamaal Kearse and Jr.Garrett Gilliland also started a couple of games in 2011. Both are capable of pushing the starters for playing time. Jr. Cooper Pelleur played primarily on special teams. RS Matt Lyons and RS Scott Lawyer sat out the year to add some size. They both have good speed and will contribute on special teams.
Washington's recruiting results have been mixed at LB since Sark arrived. Tim Tucker, Victor Burnett, and Kurt Mangum were busts at MLB. Highly rated recruits Chris Young and Darius Waters didn't qualify due to grade issues which has left some serious holes to be filled.
Washington has commitments from MLB's Blake Rodgers and Ryan McDaniel for 2012. They may take one or two more.
Cornerbacks - About to get a lot better
Back in 2009 RS Adam Long ( Injury), Fr. Desmond Trufant (Three Year Starter) , So Quinton Richardson (Much Maligned Starter), and Jr. Vonzell McDowell (Back-Up) were all splitting time and competing for starting jobs at corner. Jr. Matt Mosley (Transfer), Jr. Marquise Persley (Depth), Fr. Anthony Gobern (Back-Up), and RS Anthony Boyles (Transfer) filled out the depth.
Sr. Desmond Trufant and Jr Greg Ducre are the returning starters in 2011. They both have a lot of experience and they should be able to improve on their 2011 performances. RS Marcus Peters will push Ducre for his starting job. JC transfer Antavius Sims joins the team this winter and will compete for a spot in the rotation. Sr. Adam Long is returning after surgery to repair his ACL. Tony Gobern will continue to provide depth.
The future of the corner back position at the UW is in this years recruiting class. Sark is bringing in at least six athletes who are capable of playing the position. Demontae Kazee and Bryan Harper have already committed. Big time recruits Brandon Beaver, Alphonzo Marsh, and Kenyon Seymour are all extremely high on Washington. Erich Wilson might get a look at being a tall corner depending on who comes in at running back.
Safeties - Improved...much better
Jr. Nate Williams (Four Year Starter) and RS Justin Glenn (Starter) were the starters at safety until Glenn suffered a traumatic leg injury in a loss to Notre Dame. Fr. Nate Fellner (Starter) took over and started until Sr Jason Wells (Injuries) was able to return to action for the last couple of games. Wells was a NFL capable force until he was seriously injured. RS Greg Walker (Depth), Jr. Vic Aiyewa (Starting LB) provided the rest of the depth.
Jr. Sean Parker returns as a starter at safety in 2012. The second year player started asserting himself over the last half of the 2011 season. RS James Sample is the man to beat at the other position despite limited play before blowing out a shoulder last season. Jr. Will Shamburger, Sr. Nate Fellner, and Sr. Justin Glenn are capable of competing for starting jobs.
So. Taz Stevenson sat out last season with an injury. RS Travis Feeney was impressive enough on the scout team that the coaches toyed with playing him early. RS Evan Zeger was hurt coming into camp and spent the past year toiling on the scout team.
Taylor Lagace, Darien Washington, and Jason Thompson are the current 2012 commits. UW also remains in play for Shaq Thompson who will choose between UW and Cal.