Washington Preview: Defense and Special Teams


Now let’s talk some Washington Defense. Also, don’t forget to check out Golden Bear Lair’s Washington Offense Preview that was published before this to get fully prepared for Cal vs. Washington 2011.

As good as UW’s offense has been, their defense has been that bad. They limp home having yielded 51 points to Nebraska – 31 in a second half that broke a very tight game wide open.

Cal’s offense presents some of the same challenges Nebraska’s did. Maynard is a mobile QB, with a decent arm but with occasional accuracy issues. Cal’s RB stable has gotten considerably more diverse in the last two weeks, with CJ Anderson and Brendon Bigelow now getting snaps next to Is’i Sofele. Cal’s WR’s have excellent size, athleticism and hands, and good speed, and should be far superior to what Nebraska threw at UW last week.

Defensive Line: DT Alameda Ta’amu anchors – and I do mean anchors – the line. At 330 pounds, think Moala size in the middle. He can dominate, and has at times in the past. He’s also a senior and the undisputed leader of the DL.

Beyond him, however, the Husky DL is very light. Other starters include Hau’oli Jamora (238 pounds) and Everette Thompson (240 pounds), at the ends. When UW goes to a 4-3 setup, a second tackle in Semisi Tokolahi comes in. At 297 pounds, he complements Ta’amu decently.

225 pound Josh Shirley makes an appearance in pure pass-rushing downs. Former US Army All American Sione Potoa’e provides further backup at DT.

Linebackers: The Huskies start Cort Dennison, Garrett Gilliland, and Princeton Fuimaono, though there is some rotation beyond that (as with most college teams these days). Dennison is left with the unenviable task of replacing Mason Foster, who left for the NFL after an excellent but relatively unheralded career in Montlake (I mean he should have gotten more accolades, Husky Fans..). He doesn’t have elite talents but the Huskies rely on his experience and poise.

In truth, this unit hasn’t shown much to date. Getting a few early knocks in and the Husky Stadium crowd behind them has been known to temporarily cure such ills.

Defensive Backs: Desmond Trufant, Marcus’ younger brother, is the star. He was inconsistent last year but has the makings of a shutdown corner. Quentin Richardson, a senior, starts opposite him. He’s had an up-and-down career – he was big (200 pounds) and athletic, but frequently caught of position. Both CBs stand 6’0″, which could make throwing jump balls to Marvin and Keenan more challenging.

Sean Parker, a big time incoming recruit last year, starts at one of the safety spots after a year of nickel duty. His instincts and awareness are very good. Nate Fellner starts at the other safety spot – a big play guy who loves to lay the wood and has a nose for the ball (though Husky fans will tell you he dropped some last year too).

This is a unit that could be dominant, and could be very mediocre. This year, its been mostly mediocre, and it doesn’t get easier with Marvin Jones, Keenan Allen and company coming to town. If they pull it together though, this unit does have the raw makings of one that could give Cal trouble.

Special Teams: Eric Folk is a very good placekicker – 5 for 5 this year in the early going (and 13 for 13 in PATs… *cough*). Will Mahan (a 6th year super senior) is a good punter, averaging about 39 yards a punt.

Kasen Williams – another stud WR recruit I completely failed to mention in the initial offensive preview, does punt returns while Callier returns kicks.

Biggest Advantage vs Cal: Secondary size and potential. There hasn’t been much this year, performance-wise, to suggest that the UW secondary will shut down the best pair of Cal receivers since Desean Jackson and Lavelle Hawkins (shoutout to Robert Jordan too, of course). But they do possess the raw size, speed and athleticism to theoretically get the job done.

Biggest Disadvantage against Cal: The lines. I’m not sure why ESPN, Husky fans, and others seem to think Cal has a ‘great’ OL – I’ve seen that a few times this week. The Cal line is good, but it is not and will not reach ‘great’ in its current form. However, if they double team Ta’amu, its tough to see UW stopping the run. CJ Anderson’s ability to break an initial tackle could be handy.

The other potential disadvantage – Maynards legs. Nebraska hurt this UW defense with Taylor Martinez, a very fast quarterback with an iffy arm. Maynard may be a little faster than Martinez, though thus far Cal has kept his legs mostly under wraps. It’d be a good time to break out those designed runs, Tedford.