Washington Preview 2006 - Defense
Washington Huskies
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Washington Huskies Preview 2006 - Washington Defense

What you need to know ... Things weren't always pretty last year, but the Dawgs had to go against some of the nation's highest octane offenses. The D wasn't bad against the mediocre attacks and now gets eight starters back with the potential of finishing in the upper half of the Pac 10 standings if the secondary can improve by leaps and bounds. Safety Dashon Golden will get a look at corner, the biggest weak spot, while Donny Mateaki will be tried out at tackle if he's not needed at end. There's good athleticism and decent depth just about everywhere with more reinforcements on the way from the JUCO ranks.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: CJ Wallace, 86
Sacks: Greyson Gunheim, 5
Interceptions: Darrin Harris, Dashon Goldson, Roy Lewis, 1

Star of the defense: Senior SS C.J. Wallace
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior CB Matt Fountaine and/or junior CB Roy Lewis
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Chris Stevens
Best pro prospect: Senior CB/S Dashon Goldson 
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wallace, 2) Goldson, 3) LB Scott White
Strength of the defense: Depth, defensive tackle
Weakness of the defense: Cornerback (not counting Dashon Golden)

Defensive Line
Consider this a slight issue until the opening day lineup is announced. There are plenty of options and several good prospects with Greyson Gunheim needing to become an even better pass rusher at one end and Wilson Afoa taking over as the anchor for the line. Donny Mateaki can play either end or tackle being needed more on the inside with a foot injury suffered by Erick Lobos and relative inexperience of Jordan Reffett. A second end has to emerge out of Walt Winter, Caesar Rayford and/or the oft-injured Brandon Ala.
The key to the unit: Getting everyone healthy and hoping for a pass rusher to emerge on the other side of Greyson Gunheim.
Defensive Line Rating: 6.5

Projected Starters
- DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, RFr.
One of the track team's better shot putters, the 235-pound redshirt freshman will push Walt Winter for time at one of the end spots after being UW's best scout team performer last year.

- DT Wilson Afoa, Jr. - 33 tackles, 1 sack, 7.5 TFL
Afoa got over a back problem to end up being a reliable defender on the inside. He's a quick 290 pounds with a good nose for getting into the backfield. Now he has to become the team's main run stuffer with Manase Hopoi gone.

- DT Donny Mateaki, Sr. - 21 tackles, 3 sacks, 5.5 TFL
A smart, tough, versatile player, the 285-pound senior spent most of his time last year on the end but will try to beef up the interior early on. He could move back outside if another tackle emerges over the summer, but he'll most likely end up moving around where needed.

- DE Greyson Gunheim, Jr. - 38 tackles, 5 sacks, 11 TFL, 3 broken up passes
He was named the team's top defensive lineman at the end of last season and needs to be even better this year. One of the team's top pass rushers, the 245-pound junior is a very fast, very active end who'll need to grow into something close to unstoppable to draw all the attention away from the other side.

Top Backups
- DE Brandon Ala, Sr. - 4 tackles
The former linebacker was never right last year having problems with a knee injury. He was supposed to add some speed at end as a pass rusher before he went down after only seeing time in four games. He had problems with a hamstring injury this spring.
- DT Jordan Reffett, Jr. - 2 tackles
Reffett has seen time both as an offensive and defensive linemen with seven games of experience. Now he has to become a contributor behind Donny Mateaki in the middle adding a little bit of experience and great size.
- DE Caesar Rayford, Jr. - 2 tackles, 1 sack
Rayford is expected to become a top contributor as a pass rusher at some point after seeing a little bit of time in 13 games over the last two years. At 225 pounds he's one of the smallest players on the line, and one of the quickest.
- DE Walt Winter, Soph. - 5 tackles
Winter's spot in the lineup will likely depend on the Donny Mateaki and whether or not he starts at tackle or end. The 6-5, 245-pound sophomore got his feet wet a little bit last year playing in seven games on defense and special teams. He's athletic enough to grow into a decent pass rusher in time.
- DT Erik Lobos, Sr. - 11 tackles, 3 broken up passes
The 300-pound senior returned last year after missing all of 2004 with a broken foot and became a good backup in the rotation. Unfortunately he broke the same foot this spring.

Losing heart-and-soul linebackers like Evan Benjamin and Joe Lobendahn would be painful if there weren't exciting options ready to step in. Speed makes up for the general lack of size with 195-pound Chris Stevens about to explode as a pass rusher at one of the outside spots and veteran Scott White, the only returning starter, to be the steady force at the other. The middle will be the big question mark early with Tahj Bomar needing to pick up where he left off as the starter of the final two games last season.
The key to the unit: Hold up against big lines and power running teams. A steady rotation needs to be developed to keep everyone fresh..
Linebacker Rating: 6.5

Projected Starters
- Scott White, Sr. - 79 tackles, 3 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 3 broken up passes
A tackling machine with 188 stops over the past three seasons, the 230-pound senior is the only returning starter to the linebacking corps and will need to continue to be a top playmaker. He's good at getting into the backfield with a great speed burst to the ball.

- Tahj Bomar, Sr. - 23 tackles
Bomar stepped in when Joe Lobendahn went down late last year making 11 tackles in the middle. He's not all that big at 215 pounds and wasn't able to make much of an impact as an outside linebacker early in his career. While he might replace Lobendahn's 76 tackles, he'll have an impossible time replacing the leadership.

- Chris Stevens, Soph. - 11 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
The 195-pound sophomore will look to replace top tackler Evan Benjamin on the weakside. He was a high school track star who'll hope to flourish as a speed rusher from the outside. He'll get banged around a little too much because of his size, but he'll be next to impossible to stop when he gets a free shot into the backfield. 

Top Backups
- Dan Howell. Jr. - 2 tackles
Howell has seen plenty of action since stepping on field as a true freshman, and now he'll look to make more of an impact than just on special teams as a decent-sized defender on the strongside behind Scott White.
- Trenton Tuiasosopo, Soph.
The cousin of former UW quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo will try to come back after missing all of last year following a head injury suffered in a bike accident to add more size behind Tahj Bomar in the middle.
- E.J. Savannah, RFr.
While not all that big at 6-2 and 215 pounds, Savannah is a bigger option behind Chris Stevens on the outside. He doesn't have the same speed as Stevens, but he'll have to stay healthy and play a big role in a rotation in order to keep both players fresh against bigger, stronger running teams.

Defensive Backs
Tinkering needed to be done on the team's weakest link after finishing 106th in the nation allowing 276 yards per game and he even more problems with accurate, precision passers. To be fair, the secondary had to go against some of the nation's best passers, but such is life in the Pac 10. Dashon Golden, the team's best pass defender, will move from safety to corner with the secondary able to replace safeties easier than corner. Roy Lewis and Matt Fountaine return after starting at corner last year, but neither is guaranteed the second spot with other options being looked at. Golden's move means Chris Hemphill and Mesphin Forrester have to shine at free safety. New secondary coach J.D. Williams comes in from Cal and should help the cause.
The key to the unit: Get much better and much more consistent play out of the corners.
Secondary Rating: 5.5

Projected Starters
- CB Dashon Goldson, Sr. - 80 tackles, 1 interception, 2.5 TFL, 3 broken up passes
In one of the big off-season moves, the team's best safety has moved over to corner to fill a gaping hole. The 6-2 senior is considered a strong NFL prospect at free safety with great speed and good hitting ability finishing third on the team in tackles last year, and his stock could go through the roof if he shows he can be a steady, lockdown cover-corner.

- FS Chris Hemphill, Jr. - 3 tackles, 1 TFL
It'll be a battle all off-season to see who can step up and fill in the shoes of now-corner Dashon Goldson. Hemphill, Mesphin Forrester and JUCO transfer Jason Wells are all going to get a shot with Hemphill, at 6-6 and 215 pounds, the most intriguing of the group. The athletic junior is able to play strong safety if needed.

- SS C.J. Wallace, Sr. - 86 tackles, 1 sack, 5.5 TFL, 4 broken up passes
He's great against the run, average against the pass. He's a big-time tackler with 152 tackles over the last two seasons, and now he has to be more of an all-around playmaker when the ball is in the air with only one career interception and seven broken up passes. The Huskies will take the exchange if he continues to be a tone-setting hitter.

- CB Roy Lewis, Jr. - 47 tackles, 1 interception, 4 broken up passes
The former San Jose State transfer will battle with Matt Fountaine for the starting corner job on the other side of Dashon Goldson. Lewis is a great athlete and a good tackler, but he got burned way too often and has to be far more consistent.

Top Backups
- FS Mesphin Forrester, Soph. - 1 tackle
A special teamer so far, the 6-2 Forrester will battle with Chris Hemphill for the vacated free safety job. He'll get every shot to win it this off-season, and has to be considered starter No. 1A.
- CB Matt Fountaine, Sr. - 39 tackles, 8 broken up passes
Fountaine had a rocky season as the starter at one corner, but he'll work with Roy Lewis for the starting corner job on the other side of Dashon Goldson. He's experienced enough to be a strong nickel back if he doesn't win a starting job.
- CB Durrell Moss, Jr. - 15 tackles, 1 sack
Moss has done almost everything from linebacker to safety to even fullback, and now he'll try to build on his work over the second half of last year as a backup corner. He's a big, 215-pound option at either one of the corner spots or at strong safety, where he saw work in spring ball.
- SS Darin Harris, Jr. - 20 tackles, 1 interception
A jack-of-all-trades for the secondary, the 200-pound Harris can either play corner or safety getting a little bit of starting time at each spot last year. Outside of an interception against Cal, he didn't make any plays when the ball was in the air in four starts.
- CB Jordan Murchison, Jr.
The JUCO transfer will be an instant contender for a starting job after starring for City College of San Francisco over the last two seasons. He's a little bigger than Matt Fountaine and Roy Lewis with great speed.

Special Teams
Former PK Evan Knudson had an excellent year, but redshirt freshman Ryan Perkins is expected to grow into a good one assuming he beats out Michael Braunstein. Punter Sean Douglas will be among the best in the nation. The coverage units were among the worst in college football allowing a ridiculous 27.5 yards per kickoff return (and that's without getting one taken back for a score) and 12.7 yards per punt return. The return game wasn't much better.
The key to the unit: Get steady play from the new field goal kicker, more pop from the returns, and far more production from the coverage units.
Special Teams Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- PK Ryan Perkins, RFr.
It'll be between Perkins and Michael Braunstein to replace Evan Knudson with Perkins the odd-on favorite. He has a big leg and can punt if needed.
- P Sean Douglas, Sr. - 51 punts, 2,175 yds, 42.6 average, 16 inside the 20
Douglas had a nice season even if he didn't put enough air under the ball. He earned honorable mention All-Pac 10 honors and should grow into an even better all-around kicker this year after two steady years of experience.

Related Stories
Washington Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
Washington Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
Washington Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006

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