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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

March 23, 2011 at 10:54 AM

Pre-spring position review — Linebackers


As we continue with our pre-spring position reviews, we now hit the one position on the defense where the Huskies have some significant rebuilding — the linebacking corps.

UW has one sure thing here in returning middle linebacker Cort Dennison (pictured in a Dean Rutz photo sacking Taylor Martinez in the Holiday Bowl).

The other two spots, however, are wide open after the losses to graduation of weakside linebacker Mason Foster and strongside backer Victor Aiyewa.

And while there are plenty of candidates, there are no set heir apparents at either spot as Foster and Aiyewa (as well as Dennison) were rarely off the field last season, particularly at the end of the year.

Those three combined for 339 of UW’s 888 tackles last season — Foster with 161, Dennison 93 and Aiyewa 83. No other UW linebacker had more than the 12 of Princeton Fuimaono, most of which came on special teams. Those three also combined for 43 of UW’s 84 tackles-for-a-loss led by Aiyewa’s 22.5 and Foster’s 12.5.

Further complicating issues this spring is that Fuimaono — who’d likely enter the spring as the No. 1 at Aiyewa’s spot — and Cooper Pelluer will each be limited after having shoulder surgery.

All of makes projecting a depth chart at these spots a little dicey, but I’ll try anyway (all heights, weights are taken from the Holiday Bowl media guide).

Cort Dennison, 6-1, 236, Sr.
Garret Gilliland, 6-0, 215, So.
Tim Tucker, 6-1, 221, So.
Victor Burnett, 5-11, 232, RFr.

Princeton Fuimaono, 6-0, 201, So.
Cooper Pelluer, 6-3, 221, So.
Jamaal Kearse, 6-2, 230, RFr.

Thomas Tutogi, 6-0, 251
Jordan Wallace, 6-0, 225, Jr.
John Timu, 6-1, 225, Fr.


Since we don’t know any different at the moment, I listed the players at the spots where they appeared to be playing when last season ended, or in Tutogi’s case, where he has been projected as playing.

Obviously, however, movement at these spots is common, and with the uncertainty at the SLB and WLB spots, I’d expect all kinds of experimenting this spring, so don’t read too much into where I have everyone listed above. And with Fuimaono and Pelluer out for contact in the spring, there may have to be even more mixing and matching.

As noted above, the one sure thing is Dennison and there has been no indication to date that he’ll do anything but stay right in the middle. Given that, the guys listed behind him could easily find themselves working elsewhere this spring to see where they might fit best. Gilliland was Dennison’s primary backup last season and Tucker and Burnett usually worked there, as well.

When Tutogi signed, it was with the thought that he’d step into Foster’s spot, so that’s where I’ve got him for now. Wallace was the backup there when last season ended.

Timu, a Class of 2010 signee who sat out last season to rehab a high school knee injury, is now enrolled and listed as a linebacker and figures to get looks at the two spots with vacancies. He’s said to be up to 225 pounds from his listed 205 and has been lauded for his work in the weight room during the off-season. UW coach Steve Sarkisian said he could also get some looks at fullback, so he’ll be an intriguing player to watch throughout the spring.

As noted above, Fuimaono was the primary backup to Aiyewa last season, starting the Arizona game when Aiyewa was injured. He also had a good Holiday Bowl on special teams with a couple of nice open-field tackles. So if healthy, he’d figure to be the No. 1 guy there. Pelluer was also listed at that spot when last season ended. With each somewhat limited, the door will open for other players, such as Kearse, who impressed coaches with some good practices in the run-up to the Holiday Bowl.

Given the loss of Foster and Aiyewa and the youth of so many of the players contending to take their places, as well as the health questions of some of them, I’d expect the competition at the two vacant LB spots to last well into fall camp, when a lot of other possible contenders from the Class of 2011 also arrive.

Sarkisian has said UW may also experiment with more 3-4 looks in the spring, so that will be something else to watch for, as well.

You can access all of the previous position reviews here.



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