We continue our review of positions — after an admittedly too long break — with the linebackers, a group led by All-Conference candidate, Mason Foster, pictured right (thanks to Times photog John Lok).
POST-SPRING DEPTH CHART
WLB — Mason Foster, Sr./Jordan Wallace, So./
MLB — Cort Dennison, Jr./Victor Burnett, Fr.; Tim Tucker, Fr.
SLB — Alvin Logan, Jr./or Victor Aiyewa, Sr./Matt Houston, Sr.
NEWCOMERS ARRIVING IN THE FALL: Princeton Fuimaono, Garret Gilliland, Cooper Pelluer, Darius Waters, Chris Young.
POST-SPRING OVERVIEW: While UW loses two stalwarts in this area from last year’s team, including third-round draft pick MLB Donald Butler, this could still be a pretty solid unit for the Huskies in 2010.
Foster is a two-year starter and Dennison started five games last year, including the last four, when the Husky defense showed some marked improvement.
Each will move to a different spot than a year ago, Foster to the WLB position he played in 2008 and Dennison to Butler’s position in the middle.
And while UW coaches like to say every position remains open for competition, those two are as close to sure things as there is on the roster outside of Jake Locker. Each started throughout the spring and emerged as team leaders as well as starters at their positions.
Foster is a legit candidate for all-conference honors this season and Dennison appears to be emerging as the kind of steady player that is a hallmark of any good defense.
The SLB spot features maybe the most intriguing competition of the fall with Logan and Aiyewa at about a dead heat at the moment, and Houston waiting in the wings.
Logan is making the move from safety (and from being a WR in 2008) and the coaches seemed to grow more confident in his ability throughout the spring. Aiyewa, also a converted safety, sat out contact work in the spring due to a shoulder injury, but got enough reps in other situations to show the coaches he was picking things up, as well.
Depending on how the health at the DL evolves, UW could use more 3-4 looks this season than a year ago, potentially getting both Logan and Aiyewa on the field at times, as well.
Depth, however, is a concern at all the spots, due largely to the lack of experience. True frosh Burnett enrolled early and appeared to take a slight lead on Tucker as the backup MLB. Wallace did some nice things in the spring to emerge as the backup to Foster, but he saw little playing time a year ago, so a learning curve would be expected if he is forced into significant action.
There’s some definite talent among the incoming freshmen, and a couple could play this season, especially on special teams. Young, assuming he gets academically eligible, is likely the closest to contributing.
Here’s the assessment of UW coach Steve Sarkisian:
“Obviously Mason is Mason. He’s thee leader of our defense, a playmaker, all of that stuff. I would have to say that I don’t know if it’s the biggest surprise, but the guy I was most happy with is Cort Dennison. He really stepped up, not only from a phsicality standpoint but from a leadership point of view. He was fantastic. He played extremely well, brings a real attitude. So those two guys are exciting.
I thought Alvin Logan’s process of making that change to linebacker that he got better and better and better as the spring went on. I thought Jordan Wallace did some real dynamic things, now we’ve got to fight for consistency. But he’s going to be a heck of a player for us.
Victor Burnett, for a true freshman, we couldn’t have asked for more of that guy. We don’t run a very simple defense, there are a lot of moving parts to it, and I thought Victor did a nice job.
And I’m anxious to see Victor Aiyewa really phyiscally playing, because when we had him out there in the seven-on-seven and walk-through things, he shows a knack for understanding what we are trying to get done, and obviously he brings athleticism.”
And here’s what he said about the move of Foster:
“I liked it because it gets him around the ball, gets him closer to the football when he’s in the middle more at the weakside linebacker spot. The other thing I liked that we did is on the obvious passing downs, on third-down situations, we moved him out to almost a hydbrid defensive end-outside backer spot, and he was extremely effective there. He’s a guy who can handle all of those things because he’s so bright.”
NEXT: The secondary.