A position-by-position analysis of the 2015 Washington Huskies roster before national signing day on Feb. 4. Today: Linebackers. Tuesday: Secondary.
2014 review: For the third year in a row, senior middle linebacker John Timu and Shaq Thompson were two of the Huskies’ most productive and most valuable players. Travis Feeney and Cory Littleton split time at strongside linebacker and redshirt freshman Keishawn Bierria emerged as a dependable reserve at both outside spots. Thompson was the star: He scored four defensive touchdowns, served as the fill-in running back for three games and earned first-team AP All-America honors as an all-purpose player. He opted to forgo his senior and enter the NFL draft, where he’s a projected first-round pick. Timu was the heart and soul: He led the team with 108 tackles and had a team-high 12 passes defended. Strangely, his graduation has been celebrated in some circles, in large part because of the plays he didn’t make during his UW career. That’s unfortunate. One could make a case that playing middle linebacker in the Pac-12 is about as tough a job as there is in football. Yes, John Timu had some limitations and, yes, he dropped a few would-be interceptions, but he was a tough starting middle linebacker who played through injuries for three seasons and he was one of the most respected players in the UW locker. The Huskies were fortunate to have him.
— John Timu, 6-1, 246
— Shaq Thompson, 6-1, 228
— Tevis Bartlett, 6-3, 215, Cheyenne (Cheyenne, Wyo.)
— D.J. Beavers, 6-1, 205, Crespi Carmelite HS (Encino, Calif)
— Ben Burr-Kirven, 6-0, 200, Sacred Heart Prep (Atherton, Calif.)
— Kyler Manu, 6-1, 220, Highland HS (Pocatello, Idaho)
— Jusstis Warren, 6-3, 225, Lincoln HS (Tacoma)
— Keishawn Bierria, so., 6-1, 221
— Sean Constantine, so., 6-2, 224
— Travis Feeney, sr., 6-4, 218
— Scott Lawyer, sr., 6-2, 225
— Drew Lewis, r-fr., 6-2, 189
— Cory Littleton, sr., 6-3, 229
— Connor O’Brien, so., 6-3, 238
— Matt Preston, r-fr., 6-2, 199
— Azeem Victor, so., 6-3, 244
— Jake Wambaugh, r-fr., 6-1, 206
2015 outlook: Travis Feeney has NFL upside. We’ve seen in. We need to see more of it. By his own admission, Feeney came along way over past year in understanding his assignments; that allowed him to play more freely and more confidently. With Timu and Thompson gone, Feeney will be counted on to be a consistent playmaker next season. Cory Littleton, too. Those two shared time at SAM backer this fall and it’ll be interesting to see how that shakes out next season. Bierria looks like a capable starter at weakside linebacker. The biggest question looms at middle linebacker. Lawyer, in limited playing time, was steady in 2014. He’s probably the safe bet to be the regular MLB next season. Physically, Azeem Victor is as gifted as anyone on the UW defense and he should get every chance to win the job, too.