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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

May 25, 2012 at 12:09 PM

May questions, volume seven

trufantap.jpg

Another round as we head into the weekend. …

Q: Who would you say has emerged as the team leader on defense? Who’s the guy that everyone looks up to, the “coach on the field” type of guy that is setting the example and getting everyone to work harder in practice and in the weight room? Maybe there isn’t anyone like that but curious to hear your thoughts.

A: I think the No. 1 leader on the defense may be Desmond Trufant, a guy who I think has incredible respect among his teammates and coaches despite the (sometimes somewhat surprising to me) toasting he gets from some fans. Trufant (pictured at right in an AP photo) has been a starter since basically the midway point of his true freshman season in 2009, proving himself on the field to his peers, and has the kind of presence to command respect. I think Sean Parker is another who is emerging into a similar type of leader in the back end and Justin Glenn is another who I think has that same kind of presence (and the fact that there are so many experienced leader-types in the back end is one reason to be optimistic about improvement in the secondary this year).

The line is a little younger overall, but a couple I think are real leaders there are Hau’oli Jamora and Talia Crichton, the latter who like Trufant, has been a regular presence on the field since midway through his true freshman season.

The linebacking corps is younger overall (with the exception of Nate Fellner, who just moved to that spot) so there isn’t as much of the same type of veteran presence there as there was a year ago with Cort Dennison (or before that with Mason Foster). But one who I think is emerging quickly there as that type of leader is John Timu, who is constantly cited by coaches for his work ethic and attitude in the weight room and other off-season conditioning.

Q: With the new defensive coaches we started playing a lot more press/man-to-man coverage in the secondary during spring ball and it seems to have been pretty effective so far. Has anyone asked Sark whether or not he ever tried to get Holt to move to that style of defense? You would think with the defense just free falling like it did the last couple of years that he would have stepped in and suggested a different approach.

A: Before I go further, let me reprint a quote that ran recently in the Seattle Times from a UW defensive coordinator: “It’s just my personality to get after the offense and attack all angles and get the ball back from the offense. We need to be aggressive, and I think the kids will have a little more fun playing that style of defense. That is our personality on defense, starting from the top with coach Sark. He wants to attack on offense and defense he wants to get the ball back. So to do that, you need to get after the offense, so that’s what we’ll do.”

That ran with this headline: “Washington’s new defensive coordinator wants to remold the Huskies in his more aggressive image.”

As you may have guessed, those were part of a story I wrote on Nick Holt in Aug. 2009, that also included this subhead: “New defensive coordinator Nick Holt says he wants the Huskies to attack and get the ball back – “That is our personality on defense.’ ”

Holt, if you recall, talked early and often about playing man-to-man and pressuring, just as did Ed Donatell and Kent Baer and Phil Snow and Tim Hundley and Randy Hart — every defensive coordinator UW has had since I began covering the team since 1997 (even if some of them had slightly different ways of wanting to get that done). I’ve never been around a DC who, in an ideal world, wouldn’t pressure and play man defense whenever he could. They’d all love to call a blitz that results in a sack every down.

But wanting to do something and being able to do it — either by having the personnel or figuring out the best way to use the personnel — are two different things. I think Holt wanted to play as aggressively as any other DC out there, and at times he did — there was all kinds of press coverage in the 19-7 Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska that just a year ago had a lot of people thinking the defense was finally on the right track. But when things go bad, the natural inclination of most defensive coordinators is to try to reign things in and minimize the damage. I think even last year Holt tried to play man at times more often than may be remembered (such as the Utah game). But I think he may have lost confidence in the ability of the defense to get that done as the season wore on.

If the Huskies are more effective and more able to play that kind of defense this year, it won’t be simply because new DC Justin Wilcox wanted to do it more than Holt did — maybe he does/will, though I really think Holt wanted to play that way. It’ll be because he was better able to do it, either through having better personnel (which he may, in the back end, with a more experienced group and some talented newcomers) and/or having the ability to put those players in a better position to play that style.

Q: Regarding the 2014 schedule, since the Huskies open at Hawaii, aren’t they allowed to schedule a 13th regular season game? If so, are there any plans to schedule another home game?

A: Yes. UW officials say the school is actively looking to get another home game for that season (UW also hosts Eastern Washington and Illinois that year along with playing at Hawaii). But as is always the case, it takes two teams to schedule a game and UW needs to find a team that also has Sept. 20 of that year available to play a non-conference road game (or, possibly, another date later in that year if UW were to decide to play that game during the season, as Oregon State is doing this year, taking a trip to BYU in October to make the schedule work).
Q: To the extent possible, please either confirm or put to rest rumors that any of the following players may have career ending injuries: Deontae Cooper, Kevin Smith, Semisi Tokolahi, Adam Long.

A: The only one of those who might be in any danger of having a career-ending injury is Cooper, simply because he’s had two injuries to the same knee, which is always tricky. But UW coaches said in the spring that Cooper has had no setbacks in his latest recovery and they hope he may be able to begin practicing in the fall.

All of the other three are expected back. Long, if you recall, was back in the spring and was one of the leading tacklers in the spring game with four, so he’s good to go. Tokolahi sat out the spring after having another foot surgery related to the injury he suffered in the 2010 Apple Cup. But recall that he started seven games last season despite playing at a little less than 100 percent. Sarkisian said the hope is that this latest surgery fixes everything and he’s back to where he was prior to the injury. Obviously, that won’t be known until he plays again. But there isn’t any thought that he won’t play again.

Smith suffered an ACL injury in practice shortly before the Alamo Bowl. ACLs are 9-10 month recoveries, typically, so he may not be ready for the start of the season. And since he has a redshirt year available, he could end up using it. But it’s pretty common these days to recover from an ACL and come back just fine, and all indications were that Smith didn’t have any setbacks or anything. So there doesn’t seem to be any thought that he won’t be back eventually.

Q: Anything new on away game tickets?

A: This language comes straight from the athletic department:

Away game tickets went on-sale to season ticket holders on approximately April 16. The priority deadline, the important date, to order is May 31. We are projecting to sell out of our LSU allotment so any season ticket holders who want to request seats should do so by the priority deadline.

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