Husky Football: Position Preview – LB
The second component to the defensive front seven is the Linebackers. Last week we discussed the strength of the defensive line; with that being said, the 2014 Linebacker unit might be the strongest position on the team. A great combination of ability, experience, and ambition should lead to a great season. Let’s take a closer look:
Princeton Fuiamoano: Fuiamoano was the Huskies leading tackler last season with 80 stops. He was a consistent contributor each of his four seasons at UW and will surely be missed.
Thomas Tutogi: Tutogi was a junior college transfer and spent his two year Husky career as a solid backup middle linebacker. Tutogi was a run stuffer who saw significant playing time against ground-and-pound type offenses such as Stanford.
Jamaal Kearse: The younger brother of current Seattle Seahawk, Jermaine Kearse, was a consistent contributor as a backup linebacker and special teams player. Kearse was one of those “do-it-all” players that coaches love to have on their team.
Outside LB #1:
Travis Feeney: (6-4 218 lbs; Junior; 2013 Stats: 55 Tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2.5 Sacks) Feeney has been a fabulous linebacker when he has been able to stay healthy. He has battled his fair share of injuries throughout his UW career. Feeney has great speed and range at the outside linebacker position allowing him to run down running plays from behind. Also, he can be an effective cover lindebacker with his size, athleticism, and long arms. Barring any setbacks with his off-season surgery, expect a big season out of the junior linebacker.
Keishawn Bierria: (6-1 221 lbs; Redshirt Freshman) Bierria got his first meaningful snaps this off season throughout spring and fall camp as Feeney was rehabbing from surgery. Bierria has shown flashes of his athleticism and instincts in his limited action. Expect him to spend this season as Feeney’s backup while contributing on special teams.
Drew Lewis: (6-2 189 lbs; Freshman) Lewis is almost certainly going to redshirt this season for a number of reasons. First, there is a good amount of depth ahead of him at all three linebacker positions. Secondly, he is fairly undersized for a college linebacker, so expect him to spend this year putting on weight and getting stronger in the weight room.
John Timu: (6-1 246 lbs; Senior; 2013 Stats: 77 Tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 Sacks, 2 INT) Timu is one of the most experienced and respected players on this roster. He has been a significant contributor to the Husky defense the past three seasons and expect nothing less in his fourth and final year. Timu is the captain of the defense and does a little bit of everything for this team.
Azeem Victor: (6-3 244 lbs; Redshirt Freshman) Victor was one of the highlight players of UW’s fall camp scrimmage. He was swarming to the ball and making his presence known in the middle of the field. Victor had three bone crushing hits that had the fans on the edge of their seats. Victor has prototypical size for the MLB position and has shown the potential to be the future leader of the Husky defense.
Sean Constantine: (6-2 224 lbs; Redshirt Freshman) Much like Victor, Constantine made some standout plays in the scrimmage. Constantine created the only two turnovers for the defense, a fumble recovery and an interception of a Troy Williams pass. Constantine has been pushing for that back-up middle linebacker spot; however, with Victor beginning to separate himself there, don’t be surprised to see Constantine moved outside.
Outside LB #2:
Shaq Thompson: (6-1 228 lbs; Junior; 2013 Stats: 78 Tackles, 4 TFL, 1 INT, 1 TD) All eyes will be on Thompson as he prepares for what could be an All-American season. Thompson is coming off a productive sophomore season; however, he is looking to take his game one step further and make his presence felt as a play maker. Expect Thompson to have more game-breaking type plays such as interceptions, fumbles, and touchdowns in 2014. Also, don’t be surprised to see him get 5+ carries a game on the offensive side of the ball. 2014 promises to be Shaq’s most exciting and productive season, Husky Nation should be anxious to watch what could be his last season in a Husky uniform.
Scott Lawyer: (6-2 225 lbs; Junior; Appeared in all 13 games as a special teams player registering 18 tackles) Lawyer is an experienced player who provides valuable depth at an injury prone position. Lawyer has the ability to play outside and inside which provides our defense with more depth and versatility. Expect Lawyer to push for more playing time either inside or outside, along with continuing his duties on special teams.
Connor O’Brien: (6-3 238 lbs; Redshirt Freshman) O’Brien is young and inexperienced player; however, he is extremely athletic and talented. O’Brien was recruited as a safety, but after redshirting and spending time in the weight room last season he certainly looks like a linebacker. Expect O’Brien to be a key special teams contributor while pushing for playing time as a backup linebacker.
The 2014 Husky linebacker crew promises to be the highlight of the entire defense. With such a strong defensive line in front of them, the backers should have the room to roam around and make plays. With veteran players in Feeney, Timu, and a potential All-American in Thompson, the Huskies starting linebacker unit is perhaps the best in the conference. The new defensive coaching staff has put a significant emphasis on creating turnovers, and nowhere has that been more apparent this off-season than at the linebacker position. Husky Nation should expect more game-breaking plays and excitement out of their 2014 linebackers. These linebackers will be all over the field, swarming to the ball with bad intentions, and making their presence known. Look for that mantra to be spread throughout the entire defense as this team promises to be the hardest hitting Husky defense in recent memory.