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January 21, 2014 at 12:47 PM

Washington Huskies 2014 outlook: Linebackers

UW middle linebacker John Timu celebrates his interception late in the Huskies' Apple Cup victory over Washington State. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

UW middle linebacker John Timu celebrates his interception late in the Huskies’ Apple Cup victory over Washington State. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

A position-by-position analysis of the 2014 Washington Huskies roster before national signing day on Feb. 5. Today: Linebackers. Wednesday: Secondary. 

2013 review: Senior Princeton Fuimaono re-emerged as a starter at outside linebacker in August and turned into the Huskies’ biggest hitter and one of their most-consistent defenders, leading UW with 80 tackles (including 57 solo). OLB Shaq Thompson and MLB linebacker John Timu were second and third, respectively, with 78 and 77 tackles in 2013, with Timu — a team captain — missing one game with a shoulder injury. Timu and Thompson were both named an all-Pac-12 honorable-mention selection for the second year in a row

2014 projected spring depth chart:

Outside linebacker
Travis Feeney, jr., 6-4, 224
Keishawn Bierria, rs-fr., 6-1, 208

Middle linebacker
John Timu, sr., 6-1, 235
Azeem Victor, rs-fr., 6-4, 232
Sean Constantine, rs-fr., 6-2, 229
Ronnie Espedal, rs-fr., 6-0, 205
Eric Rauch, rs-fr., 6-2, 225

Outside linebacker
Shaq Thompson, jr., 6-2, 225
Scott Lawyer, jr., 6-2, 227
Connor O’Brien, rs-fr., 6-3, 235

2014 outlook: Among the starters, this is as good as any unit for UW. Feeney, a nine-game starter in 2012, appears poised to reclaim the starting job with Fuimaono’s graduation from the program. Outside of Thompson, Feeney might have as much upside as anyone on the defense. Feeney had shoulder surgery last spring and seemed slowed to return to form early in the 2013 season, but he was as a vital reserve and a top special-teams performer — finishing with 55 tackles, including five for loss — and looked better as the season went on. Timu enters his third season as the leader in the middle — a smart, experienced player that will again play an important role in everything the defense does. Hard to believe, but Thompson will be a junior already — in what might be his final season with the Huskies. (The goal was for him to graduate from UW in three years.) It’ll be interesting to see in the spring and summer who emerges among the younger ‘backers — Bierria, Constantine, Lawyer, Victor and O’Brien — who will be needed to provide depth in 2014.

Position grade: A-

Previous positions:
Quarterbacks
Running backs
Wide receivers
Tight ends
Offensive line
Defensive line

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