2013 Washington Preview – Defense

Posted May 6, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Washington Husky Defense

Washington Huskies

Preview 2013 - Defense

- 2013 Washington Preview | 2013 Washington Offense
- 2013 Washington Defense | 2013 Washington Depth Chart

What you need to know: Expectations are soaring for the Washington D entering 2013. Thank you, Justin Wilcox. Wilcox became the new coordinator last year, promptly transforming a team that finished 106th nationally in total defense to one that ranked 31st. It was a remarkable job for an upwardly-mobile assistant who'll continue to mix up his looks in order to keep offenses on their toes. And best of all, after using a gaggle of sophomores, just about everyone is back. In fact, of the seven Huskies to earn at least honorable mention All-Pac-12, only CB Desmond Trufant has graduated. U-Dub has budding talent at each level, such as NT Danny Shelton, LB Shaq Thompson and CB Marcus Peters. The key, though, will be for the D-line to generate more of a push this fall. Last year's unit lacked consistency, a big reason why the defense ranked No. 10 in the league in sacks and yards per carry yielded. There's cautious optimism that Wilcox might be the caretaker of the best Huskies' defense in over a decade.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: John Timu, 91
Sacks: Andrew Hudson, Josh Shirley, 6.5
Interceptions: Marcus Peters, Shaq Thompson, 3

Star of the defense: Junior LB John Timu
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior CB Greg Ducre
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Marcus Peters
Best pro prospect: Junior NT Danny Shelton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Timu, 2) Senior SS Sean Parker, 3) Shelton
Strength of the defense: Linebackers, safeties, creating turnovers, experience
Weakness of the defense: Run defense, getting to the quarterback, D-line depth

Defensive Line

A year older means the Huskies D-line ought to be a year better in 2013 as well. It better be after the defense ranked No. 10 in the league in sacks last year. The emerging star on the interior of the unit is 6-1, 317-pound junior Danny Shelton, who began putting down a foundation by starting every game and by being tabbed All-Pac-12 honorable mention. He barely scratched the surface of his potential by making 41 tackles and four stops for loss. But the coaching staff believes that Shelton, a former state shot put champion, has the heavy hands, get-off and intensity to start beating the double-teams that confronted him in 2012.

Junior Andrew Hudson exceeded expectations in 2012, emerging into Washington's best three-down defensive end. Named honorable mention All-Pac-12 and the team's Rising Defensive Lineman of the Year, he produced 47 tackles, nine stops for loss and 6.5 sacks. Despite being only 6-3 and 249 pounds, Hudson is one of the strongest players on the D, augmenting that upper body strength with a no-quit motor. The former high school wrestler also knows how to use his hands and his leverage to drive opposing linemen backwards by getting underneath their pads.

While Hudson is more of a grappler at end, junior Josh Shirley is the speed puncher among the pass rushers. He's an explosive 6-3, 230-pounder, a rush end with all of the athleticism of an elite outside linebacker. When he times the snap properly, he's capable of swooping around the edge before the opposing tackle can even sit into his blocking stance. Shirley had 33 tackles and four forced fumbles in 2012, while tying for the team lead with nine tackles for loss and six sacks. The program now hopes he can complement his fastball with a second pitch, avoiding being just a situational rusher.

The likely candidate to fill out the starting D-line is 6-2, 265-pound DE Josh Banks. The San Joaquin Delta (Calif.) College transfer earned a letter off the bench in 2012, making seven tackles and a stop for loss. He's capable of playing inside or outside, but an inability to maintain weight has made him a natural fit for end. The fact that Banks is listed as the backup to Shelton at the nose is testament to his versatility.

Sophomore Connor Cree has done more than enough during the offseason to guarantee himself a spot in the rotation. Though listed as a 6-4, 245-pound end, he can easily add more weight and shift inside if asked. His experience is certainly limited at this level, but no one of the staff doubts he'll be highly productive this season.

Former blue-chip recruit Sione Potoa'e will never fulfill his four-star potential, but he's still a very valuable reserve to have coming off the bench at multiple positions. The injury-prone 6-2, 271-pounder has appeared in 34 games and has made 21 tackles as a reliable cog in the rotation.

Watch Out For …the health of 6-3, 260-pound junior DE Hau'oli Jamora . He was all set in 2011 to build on a smashing debut, when a knee injury curtailed his season after just four games. Last season was no better, as he missed the entire year with the same problem. Jamora is working hard to recapture the form he had as a standout rookie in 2010.
Strength: The future. Not only do the Huskies boast three talented juniors near the line, Shelton, Shirley and Hudson, but they've also recruited the unit very well of late. A couple of four-star rookies, DT Elijah Qualls and DE Joe Mathis, will quickly raise the talent quotient upon their arrivals in the summer.
Weakness: Consistency. There is no doubting that this is a talented group, but the production didn't always shine through last season. Washington ranked No. 10 in the Pac-12 in sacks, while allowing 4.4 yards per carry. The time has come for all of those blue-chip recruits, past and present, to begin making more noise in the trenches.
Outlook: It's time for the D-line production to match the D-line talent. Shelton, Hudson and Shirley all possess all-star potential, with Shelton looking as if he could be a high draft choice if he decides to leave school early. The key for this unit will be to bring every Saturday, harassing opposing quarterbacks and blowing up ground games. Those Huskies failing to hold up at the point of attack will be vulnerable to being passed by younger linemen.
Unit Rating: 7.5


The Washington linebackers turned the corner with suddenness in 2012. Spearheading the improvement was junior John Timu, the third-year starter who made a successful switch from outside to inside linebacker. The cerebral 6-1, 231-pound team captain is plenty physical for the position, but really excels in the intangibles, such as his approach to the game and the way he prepares. Timu is rarely out of position, a key reason why he turned a team-high 91 tackles, 3.5 stops for loss, two sacks, four pass defended and two interceptions into honorable mention All-Pac-12 recognition.

Sophomore Travis Feeney, too, fashioned a successful position switch in 2012, moving from safety to linebacker before the season began. A terrific all-around athlete, who was drafted as a centerfielder by the Oakland A's in 2011, the 6-4, 209-pound riser finished third on the team 76 stops, including six for loss and four sacks despite missing four games. He's long and lean, with a need to add more muscle, and will cover large chunks of ground in a short period of time. Because of his range and athleticism, Feeney is a good candidate to be employed off the edge as a hard-charging blitzer.

Is sophomore Shaq Thompson a safety or a linebacker? Does it really matter how he's labeled? The second-year wunderkind played the nickel position, a hybrid that allows him to freelance wherever help is needed. But he'll spend more time near the line this year. Thompson made good on his high school hype and heavy recruitment by earning Most Outstanding Freshman from his team and honorable mention All-Pac-12 from his league. The uniquely athletic 6-2, 230-pounder exploded out of the gate with 74 tackles, 8.5 stops for loss, two sacks and three interceptions. His versatility and speed will allow the staff to use him liberally on blitzes, or to blanket tight ends in coverage.

While Feeney rested an injury during the spring, veteran Princeton Fuimaono admirably stepped into the opening. The 6-1, 211-pound senior has played plenty of football in Seattle, peaking with 13 starts and 64 stops in 2011. A year ago, his production dipped to 31 tackles in 10 games, but he remains a valuable cog on special teams and off the bench. Senior Thomas Tutogi is another seasoned linebacker that the Huskies will employ liberally. The 6-1, 242-pound former JUCO transfer finished his second season as a Husky with 42 tackles and three stops for loss.

Watch Out For … the health of Feeney's shoulder. The projected starter at strongside missed the spring and could miss more time in the summer. Now, Washington has no problem inserting Fuimaono into the lineup, but it would not only like to have Feeney back at full strength because of the speed and the depth that he brings to the field.
Strength: Front-line talent. The Huskies have taken a quantum leap since this time last year, a situation bolstered by the addition of Thompson to the group. The linebackers are big and fast and getting better with each passing season. This is a very talented, deep and diverse group that's capable of leading the way for the defense in 2013.
Weakness: Filling running lanes. The linebackers are improving against the run, but they still need to get better. They share some of the blame for a D that gave up well over four yards a carry in 2012. The Huskies need to not only fill gaps a little faster, but also read gaps quicker and wrap up in space.
Outlook: Washington's linebackers are trending north, and there's no reason to believe that won't continue this fall. The unit is a year older, nicely nuancing size and savvy with range and athleticism. Timu and Thompson are clear All-Pac-12 candidates, while their supporting cast, like Feeney and Fuimaono, will be plenty productive from the outside.
Unit Rating: 7.5


The U-Dub pass defense made a marked improvement last fall. Furthering that trend will require finding appropriate fill-ins for S Justin Glenn and especially all-star CB Desmond Trufant. While corner is going to be an area of trepidation in the early going, the Huskies feel pretty good about their situation at safety. Senior SS Sean Parkeris a third-year starter and a returning team captain. He's a tone-setter for the Huskies on D, bringing an unexpected level of ferocity and echoing sticks from a 5-10, 190-pounder. The emotional leader of the last line of defense made 77 tackles, picked off a pair of passes and forced three fumbles to earn honorable mention All-Pac-12 recognition in 2012.

The favorite to succeed Glenn is 6-0, 185-pound senior Will Shamburger, a seasoned backup and part-time starter throughout his career. Last season, he made 21 tackles, while opening the first two games. He'll be using his savvy, smarts and experience to overcome the physical skill set of a player more likely to come off the bench.

Sophomore Marcus Peters is hoping to ease the blow of losing Trufant to the NFL Draft. As a rookie, he started the final eight games to finish with 44 stops, eight passes defended and three interceptions. The 5-11, 194-pounder is smooth in coverage, well-sized and headed toward a breakout year. Peters won't be Trufant this soon, but he will be Washington's most reliable cover corner in 2013.

The favorite at the other corner opening is 5-10, 177-pound Greg Ducre. The speedy senior has played in 38 career games, with occasional starting experience. Last season, he had 15 tackles and three pass breakups, and could be targeted by opposing quarterbacks if Peters winds up being avoided.

Looking to bump Ducre from his perch at cornerback will be 6-1, 190-pound junior Travell Dixon and 5-11, 165-pound redshirt freshman Cleveland Wallace. The well-travelled Dixon is raw, but his size and aggressiveness were enough to attract the attention of Nick Saban at Alabama, who signed him out of Eastern Arizona College. Wallace has added some muscle since last year, and is better positioned to compete for playing time.

The Huskies are lining up to compete with Shamburger at free safety. Senior Taz Stevenson, senior Tre Watson and redshirt freshman Brandon Beaver will all be reloading in the summer to knock the senior from his tenuous perch.

Watch Out For … Ducre and Shamburger to have to earn their spot atop the depth chart this summer. Parker and Peters are set, but the other two openings in the secondary are not. There'll be an air of competition in the secondary in August that could even include four-star CB Jermaine Kelly
Strength: Safety. Parker is the kind of rock that a defensive backfield can be built upon. Shamburger has played a lot of football in Seattle. And there is a gaggle of borderline starters who'll fight for a promotion over the next month.
Weakness: The other corner job. Peters is on the tarmac, hoping to become one of the top young cornerbacks in the Pac-12. But there's a reason why Ducre went from part-time starter in 2011 to a full-time reserve in 2012. The program really needs either Dixon or Wallace to play his way into a starting assignment this August.
Outlook: The Washington pass defense exceeded all expectations in 2012, ranking 27th nationally in pass efficiency defense. But can the Huskies even approach that level of play now that Trufant in Atlanta as the Falcons' first-round draft choice? The secondary is halfway complete, with Parker and Peters forming a solid foundation. Avoiding a return to the dark days of soft coverage, though, will require two quality starters emerging from a sea of competitors.
Unit Rating: 7

Special Teams

Senior Travis Coons is going to be a factor this season at both punter and placekicker, though it remains to be seen if he'll win either job. The second-year transfer from Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) College averaged just 39.8 yards per punt in 2012, and went 9-of-14 on field goals, with two crucial misses that cost the Huskies their final two games. Oh, and his 59-yard kicking average ranked 101st nationally.

Coons' competition at punter will come from sophomore Korey Durkee, a booming 6-4, 225-pound launcher whose lack of consistency has prevented him from running away with the job. Last year, he averaged 36.9 yards on 15 punts. At placekicker, Washington signed the nation's No. 7 player at his position, Cameron Van Winkle, who was brought aboard to compete immediately. The rookie brings both pop and accuracy into this competition.

Sophomores Jaydon Mickens and Marvin Hallwill both be involved in the return game this fall. Neither was able to break free a year ago; Hall averaged 22.3 yards on kickoffs and 5.5 yards on punts, while Mickens normed 21.5 yards on kickoffs.

Watch Out For …Coons to play an integral role on special teams, but no longer be a dual-threat. The competition at punter and placekicker is young and likely to improve with each summer practice. Coons is too versatile not to be a factor in 2013, but his leg won't be nearly as gassed as it was a year ago.
Strength:Leg strength. The freshmen, Durkee and Van Winkle, are powerful and can really give the ball a ride. The staff feels that the latter is capable of reaching the uprights from 50 yards out, while the former can uncork 60-yarders. The air of competition within the competition ought to be good for all parties involved.
Weakness: Inaccuracy and inconsistency. Sure, the punters and kickers can drive the ball a country mile, but will it be straight, and will the next attempt be shanked? Sustained excellence is what eluded the specialists in 2012 and could do so again in 2013.
Outlook: The Huskies have recruited special teams well in recent years, yet this unit seems to always be an issue, going as far back as a decade. The return and coverage teams are mediocre. However, U-Dub needs its punter, kicker or preferably both to perform a lot better than they did a season ago. The defense and the offense are banking on a higher degree of support in 2013.
Unit Rating: 6

- 2013 Washington Preview | 2013 Washington Offense
- 2013 Washington Defense | 2013 Washington Depth Chart