Preview 2008 - Defense
2008 CFN Washington Preview
2008 UW Offense
2008 UW Defense
2008 UW Depth Chart
2007 CFN Washington Preview
2006 CFN Washington
need to know:
New coordinator Ed Donatell might seek out a one-way
ticket back to the NFL after trying to resuscitate this unit. The
Huskies will be looking for a bunch of new starters on a defense that
finished last in the Pac-10 and 104th nationally in pass
defense. The biggest need area is along a depleted defensive line that
loses three starters, and will be counting on players, such as holdover
DE Daniel Te’o- Nesheim and untested DT Cameron Elisara, to lead the
charge up front. The brightest building block of the defense was LB E.J.
Savannah, an athletic defender who led the team with 111 tackles in
2007, but he's academically ineligible and might be out for the year.
That means FS Nate Williams is the new star playmaker to build
the back seven around.
Tackles: Mesphin Forrester, 93
Sacks: Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, 8.5
Interceptions: Mesphin Forrester, 2
Star of the
Junior DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim
Player who has to step up and become a star: Redshirt
freshman CB Quinton Richardson
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore FS Nate Williams
Best pro prospect: Junior LB E.J. Savannah if eligible
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Te’o-Nesheim 2)
CB Mesphin Forrester
3) Junior LB Donald Butler
Strength of the defense: The linebackers, depth on the
Weakness of the defense: The pass defense, pass rush,
Projected Starters: After losing three starters
and five seniors to graduation, the Huskies are suddenly very
young and vulnerable up front. The lone returning starter is
6-4, 260-pound junior DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, a two-year
starter and the emotional catalyst for the entire defense. On
the brink of becoming an all-conference star, he parlayed a
non-stop motor and unparalleled intensity into 57 tackles and a
team-high 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.
Te’o-Nesheim’s likely partner at defensive end is junior
Darrion Jones, an infrequent contributor over the last three
seasons. A former linebacker, he bulked up to 6-3 and 255 pounds
to go along with the speed and natural lean of a prototypical
edge rusher. However, he has just three career tackles and will
have to fight to hold on to this spot.
Sophomore Cameron Elisara has a chance to be to the
tackles what Te’o-Nesheim is to the ends. Although Elisara lacks
ideal size at 6-2 and 275 pounds, he’s a whistle-to-whistle
battler who plays with good leverage and is one of the defense’s
strongest players. He’ll occasionally get engulfed by larger
linemen, but has the right blend of power and want-to to become
a very productive player.
In a matter of a few weeks in April, sophomore De’Shon
Matthews went from a backup defensive end to a starting
defensive tackle, filling a glaring need up front. A natural fit
on the outside at 6-4 and 255 pounds, he has a massive wingspan
and an obvious need for additional weight. He has a good burst
that’ll be neutralized if he can’t get off his blocks.
Projected Top Reserves: As soon as he can add more
lower body strength and gain some reps, redshirt freshman DE
Kalani Aldrich will have the potential to be a productive
pass rusher in the Pac-10. At 6-7 and 244 pounds, he has a
rangy frame and the long arms to bat down passes and obstruct
the quarterback’s vision.
On the opposite side, redshirt freshman Tyrone Duncan, a
squatty 6-2, 285-pounder, will be able to contribute more in run
defense. Built like a nose tackle, he has the base and quickness
to make plays on the other side of the line. He’s a different
type of end, but he’s effective.
On the inside, the Huskies are counting on another redshirt
freshman, Nick Wood, to provide depth and an instant dose
of run-stuffing ability. While only 6-2 and 275 pounds, he’s
very strong and uses his hands well to disengage from blockers.
Watch Out For… the true freshmen to get every
opportunity to avoid a redshirt year. Tackles Alameda Ta’amu
and Craig Noble, and ends Senio Kelemete and
Everette Thompson are a talented quartet who’ll be a given a
chance to join a questionable rotation when they arrive in
Strength: Work ethic. With Te’o-Nesheim setting
the setting for intensity and ferocity, the line is rife with
overachievers who’ll outhustle and outwork the competition if
raw talent alone can’t get it done.
Weakness: Size on the inside. The diminutive
tackles are going to get destroyed against the run by opponents
that line up and run the ball right at them. At 6-4 and 270
pounds, converted tight end Johnie Kirton is the biggest
of the two-deep tackles, a reality that’ll haunt the D
throughout the year.
Outlook: Long on try-hard guys and short on elite
talent, the line will struggle to win the battles that make life
easier for the back seven. Although they won’t be outworked by
many teams, the glaring deficiencies on the inside have no
simple or quick solutions.
Projected Starters: The Huskies needed
to find a way to get sophomore Mason Foster on the field,
and with E.J. Savannah suspended, the problem is solved.
One of the budding stars of the defense, he started four games
as a true freshman, finishing with 25 tackles and five tackles
for loss. A versatile and explosive defender, Foster is 6-1 and
218 pounds with the athleticism to make plays all over the
At the other outside position, former walk-on Joshua Gage
has worked his way to the top of the depth chart for now. At 6-2
and 225 pounds, the junior plays with good instincts and
discipline, earning a letter and high marks for his efforts on
special teams. Not the most athletic of the linebackers, he’ll
need to continue exceeding expectations in the summer to remain
Grappling for the opening at middle linebacker are junior
Donald Butler and senior Trenton Tuiasosopo. The
biggest knock on the 6-1, 240-pound Butler is a recurring knee
injury that limited him to 52 tackles in eight games, a number
that’s well below his potential. If health isn’t a concern, he’s
rock solid in run defense and the most intimidating of the
The 6-2, 240-pound Tuiasosopo filled in nicely for Butler last
fall, starting eight games and making 39 tackles and 3.5 tackles
for loss. All things being equal, he’s a rung below Butler,
doing a nice job in run defense, but often getting exposed when
he’s forced to cover a back or a tight end.
Projected Top Reserves:
he can remain out of Willingham’s Dawg house, and into the
classroom junior E.J. Savannah will be one
of Washington’s best defensive players and a rising talent in
the Pac-10. He erupted as a sophomore with a team-leading 111
tackles, 14 tackles for loss, two sacks, and three fumble
recoveries. At 6-2 and 228 pounds, he has good instincts and
lateral quickness, but will be even better when he learns to
play a little more under control. The problem is his
eligibility, or lack of it. Academically ineligible, he could be
on the team late in the season, but that's a huge hope.
While no threat to the starting lineup, senior Chris Stevens
brings plenty of intensity and 32 games of experience to the
reserves. He had 24 tackles a year ago, but was far more
valuable as the program’s gunner on special teams.
Watch Out For… Foster to finish the season with
more snaps than anyone. Whether he moves to strongside or earns more reps when the 3-4 is used, the
sophomore has too upside potential to be wallowing on the bench.
If Butler’s knee isn’t 100%, Foster becomes the second best
linebacker on the roster.
Strength: Experience. Six different linebackers
started games in 2007. Four of them are back in Seattle for
another, forming the D’s deepest unit.
Weakness: The middle. If Butler’s injuries are
behind, the program is set on the inside. However, his balky
knee has been a persistent problem, and Tuiasosopo is better
served coming off the bench instead of being the every-down man
in the middle.
Outlook: With Savannah out, now Butler has to stay healthy
for the linebackers to be the strength of the
defense, educing cries for greater reliance on a 3-4 alignment.
Even if everything doesn’t line up perfectly, this will be a
solid unit brimming with quality athletes.
Projected Starters: Now that the defensive backs
are veterans, it’s time the production follows. A year older,
and presumably wiser, the Huskies are hoping to move beyond last
year when they allowed a league-high 27 touchdowns. Senior
Mesphin Forrester is the only holdover to start all 13 games
in 2007, but that was at strong safety. This year, he’ll be
filling the Roy Lewis’s vacated cornerback spot. Playing through
a series of nagging injuries, he still rung up 93 tackles and
picked off two passes for a second straight. A 6-2, 205-pound
enforcer, Forrester needs to step it up in pass defense to avoid
getting picked on constantly.
Fresh off being named the Special Teams Scout Team Player of the
Year, redshirt freshman Quinton Richardson has his sights
set on the other starting cornerback spot. Built more like a
safety at 6-0 and 205 pounds, he has flashed enough speed and
cover skills to be used as a cornerback. His combination of size
and athleticism will allow the staff to use him in a number of
Sliding over to strong safety is 5-11, 200-pound senior Darin
Harris, who started the final eight games of 2007 at free
safety. A three-time letterwinner, he finished fourth on the
team with 73 tackles, and is at his best when playing closer to
the line of scrimmage. When forced on an island, he can be a
liability in pass defense.
After lettering as a true freshman and making 32 tackles, the
staff is confident sophomore Nate Williams is ready to
take over at free safety on a full-time basis. A special 6-1,
205-pound all-around athlete, he combines promising open-field
tackling with above-average cover skills. He’ll be on the
all-conference team before he’s through at Washington.
Projected Top Reserves: Pushing hard for the
strong safety job is 6-1, 217-pound sophomore Victor Aiyewa,
a tremendous physical specimen who lettered on special teams as
a true freshman. Still quite raw, when the light finally goes
on, he’ll have the potential to be a nasty and intimidating
Williams’ backup at free safety will be 6-2, 210-pound senior
Jason Wells, a five-game starter before suffering a
season-ending knee injury. Before getting hurt, he has made 24
tackles and was dishing out pain on a weekly basis. He’s
expected to be back before the opener, good news for the entire
The veteran among the backup safeties is senior Byron
Davenport, a seven-game starter in his first season since
transferring from UCLA. The 5-11, 195-pounder had 50 tackles,
enduring constant hamstring problems that affected his trademark
quickness and ability to break on balls.
Sophomore Vonzell McDowell was pressed into action as a
rookie, and his inexperience shone through on a weekly basis. He
started the first three games, but eventually lost confidence
and was relegated to the bench and wound up with just 20
tackles. He’s only 5-9 and 176 pounds, making him a liability in
run defense and when matched against taller receivers.
Watch Out For… Williams to begin evolving into one
of the program’s best defensive players. He has all the tools to
be a special safety, needing a little more experience before
taking another step in the maturation process.
Strength: Depth. After being forced to burn a few
redshirts and use a ton of players, the Huskies are beginning to
reap the benefits of opening up the bench in 2007. Nine
letter-winning defensive backs will be fighting for four jobs in
the summer creating an air of competition that’ll benefit the
Weakness: Pass defense. It’s an on-going problem
that the program hasn’t been able to solve in years yielding too
many big plays and picks off too few passes, the biggest crisis
the defense faces heading into a new season.
Outlook: Barring injury, the secondary has enough
familiar faces and quality athletes to perform better. However,
that doesn’t mean it’ll be up to new coordinator Ed Donatell’s
satisfaction. The Huskies are still lacking in shutdown corners,
and all of the position switching could have a negative impact,
especially in the first half of the year.
Projected Starters: Both specialists return to a
unit that replaced coaches in the offseason following a rough
year in some spots. Junior Ryan Perkins will be in his
second season as the starting placekicker after going 15-of-20
on field goal attempts and having three blocked. He has average
leg strength and became increasingly inconsistent as he moved
further away from the goal posts.
In his first season removed from Grossmont (Calif.) College,
senior P Jared Ballman did a decent job, averaging 40.9
yards, while handling the team’s kickoffs. He gets lift on his
punts, and also doubles as Perkins’ backup at placekicker.
Among new coordinator Brian White’s many challenges will be to
locate a couple of returners to supplant last year’s regulars,
Anthony Russo and Louis Rankin.
Watch Out For … redshirt freshman Erik Folk.
Lurking at No. 3 on the depth chart, he might have unseated
Perkins as a first-year freshman had it not been for a back
injury. If his health isn’t an issue, he has the best leg of any
of the kickers and a chance to contend for more playing time.
Strength: Depth at kicker. In Perkins, Ballman,
and Folk, the Huskies have three placekickers good enough to
trot on to the field and split the uprights. Particularly good
inside 40 yards, Perkins showed sharp accuracy as the season
Weakness: Kickoff coverage. As good as Washington
was on punt coverage, it was equally awful on kickoffs. The
Huskies yielded more than 24 yards a return, which was at the
bottom of the Pac-10 and 109th in the country.
Outlook: Like so many Husky units, there’s work to
be done on improving every aspect. Perkins and Ballman helped
plug holes a year ago, but the coverage teams still need to
tighten things up and new return specialists must emerge before