Preview 2007 - Defense
2007 Washington Preview
2007 UW Offense Preview
2007 UW Depth
2006 CFN Washington
need to know:
Even with a slight improvement in 2006, the Husky pass defense
ranked among the nation’s worst for the second straight year.
With no stars and two new starters, expect more of the same in
2007. The problems in the secondary will again overshadow a
sneaky good front seven that features four returning starters on
the defensive line and a group of young, dynamic linebackers,
including sophomores E.J. Savannah and Donald Butler that could
evolve into playmakers. Defensive ends Greyson Gunheim and
Daniel Te’o Nesheim are a couple of warriors that combined for
two dozen tackles for loss last fall. At 6-5 and 265 pounds,
Gunheim runs like a gazelle, making him a magnet for NFL scouts
visiting the Northwest.
Tackles: Roy Lewis, 66
Sacks: Greyson Gunheim, 6
Interceptions: Mesphin Forrester, 2
Star of the
Senior DE Greyson Gunheim
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior CB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB E.J. Savannah
Best pro prospect: Gunheim
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Gunheim 2) DE Daniel
Te’o-Nesheim 3) FS Jason Wells
Strength of the defense: The defensive line
Weakness of the defense: The pass defense, creating
Whatever success the Husky defense has in 2007 will start up front with
an aggressive, veteran line that returns six lettermen and four
starters. The ends, senior Greyson Gunheim and sophomore
Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, are high-motor types that combined for 24
tackles for loss and nine sacks in 2006. Gunheim was benched briefly
last fall, but still wound up leading the team with 14 tackles for loss
and six sacks. At 6-5 and 265 pounds with uncommon speed for a lineman,
he’s a pass-rushing terror coming off the edge.
Te’o-Nesheim was one of last season’s pleasant surprises, consistently
beating opposing tackles and making plays for minus yards. Neither the
quickest nor the biggest Washington lineman at 6-4 and 245 pounds, he’ll
simply out work his guy in order to make stops.
After starting 11 games and making 23 tackles in 2006, senior Wilson
Afoa is back to anchor the interior of the Husky line. Showing good
quickness for a 6-3, 290-pounder, he has to be even more productive as a
run stuffer in the season ahead.
Afoa will be joined by fellow senior Jordan Reffett, who started
the first five games of his career last season, chipping in 23 tackles
and four for loss. At 6-6 and 295 pounds, he’s the team’s biggest
lineman, and must play like it if the Huskies are going to improve
against the run in 2007.
Projected Top Reserves: After redshirting last season to
get bigger and stronger, sophomore Darrion Jones is on his way to
becoming the first end off the bench this fall. At 6-3 and 245 pounds,
he has the speed and explosion to be a very effective situational
The other second team end will be senior Caesar Rayford, a
two-time letterman that’s seen most of his action on special teams. A
terrific all-around athlete, one of his biggest challenges has been
adding weight to a lanky, 6-7 frame.
The future at tackle in Seattle will undoubtedly involve redshirt
freshman Cameron Elisara, one of the stars of last year’s
recruiting class. The 2006 Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year is
only 6-2 and 280 pounds, but he’s quick enough to get into the backfield
and goes until the whistle on every down. Once Afoa and Reffett
graduate, Elisara is destined to become a crowd favorite at Husky
Watch Out For… Gunheim and Te’o-Nesheim to quietly be one
of the most disruptive set of bookends in the Pac-10. Te’o-Nesheim
plays like an animal with no off switch, and Gunheim begins 2007 with a
chip on his shoulder after feeling as if underachieved last season
Strength: Experience. With so many veterans returning to
the line, the defense will be able to use a deep rotation that keeps
everyone fresh beyond halftime, when the Huskies struggled last season.
Weakness: Getting to the quarterback. Other than Gunheim,
who had six, no Washington lineman had more than three sacks in 2006, a
trend that must change if the leaky pass defense is going to have a
Outlook: The ends are fringe all-Pac-10 performers and the
tackles are reliable big-bodies, giving Washington the building blocks
of a very respectable first line of defense.
Projected Starters: Two starters from last year may have
departed, but Washington will retool on the fly at linebacker thanks to
some terrific recruiting in recent years. The veteran of the group is
senior Dan Howell, who started ten games at strongside, and had
35 tackles, six for loss and a team-high three forced fumbles. Named
Most Improved Defensive Player in 2006, he’s outstanding in pass defense
and ready to assume more of a leadership role on the defense.
After learning the ropes in 2006 and lettering as a freshman, E.J.
Savannah stepped up this spring and won himself the job at weakside
linebacker. A highly instinctive defender with great
sideline-to-sideline quickness, he’s got a very bright future with the
In the middle will be Donald Butler, one of just two freshmen to
receive playing time in 2006. Mature beyond his years, he was thrust
into action last fall, and responded with 24 tackles and improved play
as the season wound down.
Projected Top Reserves: Although junior Chris Stevens
has fallen behind Savannah on the depth chart, he’ll still be an
important part of the defensive rotation and special teams in 2007.
Built like a safety at 6-0 and 215 pounds, and as fast as any Husky, he
had 31 tackles and seven tackles for loss as a key backup last season.
Washington’s insurance policy at middle linebacker is junior Trenton
Tuiasosopo, the cousin of Marques and Matt. Bigger and stronger
against the run than Butler, he trying to revive a career that was
briefly stalled by a head injury suffered a little more than two years
Watch Out For… Savannah to flash signs in 2007 of an
all-league future. More than just a terrific physical specimen, he
plays with an attitude and has the innate ability to constantly be near
Strength: Speed. While they may be a little light on the
outside, the linebackers are great natural athletes that can fly to the
ball and come off the edge on the blitz. In pass coverage, they’re
capable of matching most backs and tight ends like a defensive back.
Weakness: Experience in the middle. Both Butler and
Tuiasosopo have upside, but at the most pivotal spot on the unit,
neither player has even started a game at this level.
Outlook: Once they survive the early stages of the season,
the Huskies have the young athletes at linebacker to be a very feisty
big-play unit by the second half of the year.
Projected Starters: For the second straight year,
Washington will be trying to find answers for a pass defense that
finished among the nation’s worst. It’ll do so without last season’s
best cornerback and safety, Dashon Goldson and C.J. Wallace. The
Huskies’ most experienced defensive back is senior corner Roy
Lewis, a third-year starter that’s lacked consistency the last two
seasons. He’s played a ton of football for both Washington and San Jose
State, and had 66 tackles in 2006, but needs to become the steady corner
that the program is sorely lacking.
The battle to join Lewis at cornerback involves junior Jordan
Murchison and redshirt freshman Matt Mosley, neither of whom
played last season. In his first season out of junior college, the
staff decided to hold back Murchison after he was slowed by a knee
injury in August. While speed isn’t an issue for the 6-0, 184-pounder,
no one will know until September whether he can cover Pac-10 receivers.
Also a member of the track team, Mosley is a blazer with great hands and
few extra pounds of muscle since he arrived last year. The starting job
is there for the taking if he can show a level of consistency that in
The first-line safeties figure to be juniors Jason Wells and
Mesphin Forrester. In his first year out of Mt. San Antonio
(Calif.) College, Wells started six games for the Huskies and finished
with 42 tackles. At 6-2 and 210 pounds, he’s a thumper with the
physical tools to load up on tackles and be the star of the secondary in
His two-year apprenticeship now complete, Forrester is ready to take
over at strong safety. At 6-2 and 205 pounds, he’ll come up and support
in run defense, but in spot duty last fall, also proved to be
surprisingly active when the ball was in the air. Forrester had two of
Washington’s ten picks in 2006 and broke up four other passes.
Projected Top Reserves: The loser of the competition
between Murchison and Mosley will still be an integral part of the
secondary and a possible nickel back on obvious passing downs. Junior
Darin Harris is a two-time letterwinner and a rock solid reserve
at either safety position. After starting four games as a true
sophomore in 2005, he redshirted last season to rehab from back
problems. If health isn’t an issue, Harris gives the second team a
much-needed jolt of experience.
Watch Out For… junior cornerback Byron Davenport.
No doubt Davenport has talent, but the fact that he’s being counted on
to immediately plug a hole in the secondary says a lot about the dire
situation in the Husky pass defense. When last seen, he was lettering
with UCLA in 2005, and going by the name Byron Velaga.
Strength: The safeties. With Wells, Forrester and Harris,
Washington goes three-deep at the position, all of whom have experience
and the size to support the run like an inside linebacker.
Weakness: Pass defense. Not only do the Huskies allow too
many big plays, but they don’t create any, picking off just ten passes
Outlook: Without even the hint of a lockdown corner to
slow down the likes of Cal’s DeSean Jackson or Oregon’s Jaison Williams,
it’s going to be another rough season for the still struggling Husky
Projected Starters: Graduations at punter and placekicker
mean Washington’s special teams are about to be overhauled in 2007.
Junior Jared Ballman, a transfer from Grossmont (Calif.) College,
was recruited to take over the punting duties immediately and challenge
at kicker as well. While his hang time can has been very impressive, he
was wildly inconsistent throughout spring, a major concern heading into
Sophomore Ryan Perkins has a slight edge to win the kicking job
after returning from a season-ending knee injury suffered in the 2006
spring game. A left-footed punter and right-footed kicker, he has the
leg strength to compete for both openings.
Despite finishing 91st nationally in 2006, senior Roy
Lewis will be back as the team’s primary kick returner. Senior
Anthony Russo and sophomore D’Andre Goodwin are being counted
on to spark a punt return team that 97th in the country last
Projected Top Reserves: Perkins could also win the punting
job, especially if Ballman continues to shank punts in practice.
Freshman Zach Gerasin is a walk-on kicker with a slim shot of
rising to the top of the depth chart.
Watch Out For… incoming freshman kicker Erik Folk.
One of the top-rated kickers on the West Coast, Folk is instantly
Perkins’ stiffest competition. The younger brother of former Arizona
kicker and punter Nick Folk, he’s particularly strong on kickoffs.
Strength: Kickoff coverage. The Huskies don’t appear
especially strong in any one area of special teams, but they did finish
second in the Pac-10 covering kicks, and should be just as stout this
Weakness: Punt coverage. As good as Washington was on
kick coverage in 2006, it was equally atrocious on punts. The Huskies
gave up nearly 15 yards a return, which was worse than all but three
teams in America.
Outlook: Unless Folk steps up and kicks like a Freshman
All-American, it’s going to be hard finding the silver linings on this
special teams unit. The situation at punter is unsettling and the
return game was feeble throughout 2006.