Our weekly chance to talk with UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox came at a good time as the Huskies did some significant scrimmaging today. It was also our first chance to talk with him since some of the injuries that have cropped up on the defensive side of the ball.
Asked to give an overall assessment of the defense eight days into camp, Wilcox said what might be expected, that “we’ve got a long way to go. There was way too many mistakes today. We showed some good things, we showed some bad things, we got to get much more detailed on the alignment, and it could be six inches or a foot and that’s all it takes. The details of our alignment assignment have got to improve, focusing when we’re tired or maybe have a little bit of adversity being able to bounce back and win the next play, just that mentality. They’ve shown progress but we need to practice, we’ll continue to grind it and work on that.”
UW has been practicing of late with a half-dozen or so expected key defensive contributors for this season on the sidelines. But Wilcox said “You really don’t think about that, you just move forward, unfortunately we had some guys get dinged up, but that’s part of football and the next guy in there has to push himself, and that’s why practices are so important. Obviously you don’t want to lose anybody no matter how deep or how not deep you are, you don’t want to lose anybody and that’s just part of the game.”
The injuries have been a particular issue at linebacker, though, and Wilcox said: “Are we concerned about it? Yeah, anytime you lose some guys, no matter for how long to injury, it’s a concern, but that’s the game of football and the next guy’s got to step up and carry the flag, and that’s why every guy taking every mental rep is so important. We’re getting some guys some opportunities to get a lot more reps and we’re going to continue to work with those guys and develop them.”
Those injuries have led to a couple of position moves, notably safety Travis Feeney to strongside linebacker. Wilcox said that’s probably the easiest such switch to make.
“It depends on which position you’re playing,” he said. “There is some carry over at especially at one of our linebacker positions to safety. At two others, the (middle linebacker) and (weakside) there’s probably less carryover. There will be more looks that are a little different than you’ve seen at safety.”
Asked about Feeney, he said: “He made some plays today, I thought he did a good job, there’s some different looks, it’s not like moving what we did with Nate (Fellner), it’s a little bit different move, Travis played there in high school, so he’s got some of that natural feel playing in there, we did that for a reason, and I think Travis has had a great attitude about it, and it really showed today, he made a bunch of plays. And even though he might not exactly know where he’s supposed to be right now with only 2 practices, but he ran around and made some plays, you could see his speed on the field and when he maybe makes a mistake he can turn and run so were excited about it, he’s excited about it, we just got to continue to develop it.”
Asked who has stood out so far, he said: “I think there are some guys having really good camps, the usual suspects. Sean Parker’s doing a really nice job, Josh Shirley continues to show improvement, John Timu. Desmond (Trufant). A couple of the other guys in the defensive backfield, I think Will Shamburger’s had a good camp so far, the linebacker position has been very competitive on continuing to work with a fair amount of those guys. I don’t like singling guys out. I like our work ethic, and we’ve got to continue to keep working and developing these guys.”
And finally, asked about what he wants to get out of full contact work, he said: “It’s a delicate thing because you want to tackle live everyday. But it’s not feasible, so it’s continuing to develop great habits, it’s running to the football, it’s technique wise, improving technique in tackling, working on it in a controlled environment whether it’s with bags or one on one situations where you maybe aren’t going to the ground. But that’s something we’ll continue to stretch, we’ll do it everyday, we’ll do it during the season, it just becomes part of who you are. We definitely have work to do on that.”
[do action=”brightcove-video” videoid=”1785644664001″][/do]