With three weeks of spring practice down, and two to go, here’s a look at five players that had made a real move up the depth chart so far.
1, Josh Shirley. The redshirt freshman defensive end has been a consistent standout as a pass rusher and undoubtedly will have a big role in those situations in 2011. He may need to add to his current weight of 225 to become a true everydown defensive end. But the way he has emerged is forcing UW coaches to get creative with their defensive fronts to find ways to get him on the field. It’s always wise to remember that it’s still just spring, and the true tests come in the fall. But it’s hard to imagine he won’t have a significant impact in 2011.
2, Garret Gilliland. The true sophomore was moved from middle linebacker to weakside linebacker before the spring, given a chance to become the heir apparent to the spot held a year ago by Mason Foster. All he’s done since is taken a huge foothold on that spot with consistent play, capped by two tackles-for-a-loss early in Saturday’s scrimmage. UW needs better play across the board in this area after losing Foster and Victor Aiyewa to graduation. But Gilliland’s emergence helps soothe the worry.
3, Kevin Smith. The true sophomore has shaken off some nagging injuries that helped slow him last fall to show why the coaches were so excited in the first play, displaying speed and playmaking ability and consistent hands. The receiving corps will obviously become that much more competitive when Kasen Williams arrives in the fall. But there seems little doubt Smith will have a role, be it as a receiver (he’s also siimply carried the ball a few times, as well) or as a returner.
4, Austin Seferian-Jenkins/Michael Hartvigson. Much as Shirley and the emergence of the defensive line has been the story of the last week or so of spring, the re-emergence of the tight end in the offense was the story of the first week or so. Seferian-Jenkins, a true freshman and early enrollee, has so far given every indication he’ll be the real deal. And Hartvigson, a redshirt frosh after suffering a shoulder injury early last year, may be the more consistent of the two at the moment. More important than worrying about who starts is simply realizing UW has two tight ends that each figure to be key parts of the offense in 2011 and provide UW a presence at that position it didn’t have in 2010.
5, Zach Fogerson. The sophomore has been slowed by a concussion the last few days. But prior to that he was getting significant action in the backfield, both at his listed fullback spot and sometimes in situations where he serves as a tailback or shifts out to receiver. At a listed 238 pounds, he should give UW a big-back option it hasn’t had much of in recent years.