Oppo Notes: Previewing the Huskie D

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

We take a look at Justin Wilcox's improved defense on the eve of the eclipse.

When Justin Wilcox came to Washington from Tennessee, the Huskies had one of the worst defenses in the country. In just a couple of seasons, the Huskies D has moved from bad to respectable to pretty damn good. The improvement has positioned Wilcox as the possible heir to the head coaching position should Sarkisian flee the Dawgs for the Trojies.

This season, the Huskies are allowing just 21.8 ppg, which is good for 21st in the country. For comparison sake, UCLA gives up about a point more per game. The Huskie D is also similar to UCLA's in that it does give up a bit of yardage despite holding opponents to low point totals. The Huskies allow about 382 total yards per game, which is 48th nationally, split between 210 passing yards per game and 172 rushing yards per game. They do so by forcing negative plays, not allowing many big plays, and having a respectable 3rd down conversion rate. It is a truly a bend but don't break defense with a lot of speed.

Up front, Washington two big tackles in Danny Shelton (6'1 327 lbs. Jr.) and Evan Hudson (6'5 277 lbs. Jr.). Shelton is a prototypical nose, while Hudson has the ability to penetrate the backfield. These two provide the girth on the defense, and the Huskies want opposing teams to run around edges where the rest of the defense can utilize its speed to chase down ball carriers.

At the end spots, Washington will rotate Ha'oli Kikaha (6'3 250 lbs. Jr.), Corey Littleton (6'3 230 lbs. So.) and Josh Shirley (6'3 232 lbs. Jr.)(Coincidentally, this is the third week in a row that UCLA has faced one of the three back pack thieves dismissed by Rick Neuheisel; We played Colorado and Paul Richardson, Arizona with Shaq Richardson, and now Josh Shirley). The ends are built like linebackers and can wreak havoc in the backfield, as they have combined for 12.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss.

Behind the line, Washington's three linebackers may be the smallest in the conference but they have a lot of speed and versatility. The standout of the group is Shaq Thompson (6'2 224 lbs. So.), who was recruited as one of the top safety prospects in the country coming out of high school. Thompson fits in a role similar to Myles Jack where he'll play a lot of coverage, but he's stout enough in run defense to stay on the field in early downs and is second on the team with 54 tackles. The other outside backer is Princeton Fuimaono (6'1 217 lbs. Sr.) who actually leads the team with 62 tackles. In the middle, John Timu (6'1 235 lbs. Jr.) rounds out the speedy linebacking corps and provides the defense with another backer that can roam sideline to sideline. Timu is third on the team in tackles with 49.

The secondary is experienced with three seniors and a second year starting sophomore. Safeties Sean Parker (5'10 195 lbs. Sr.) and WIlliam Shamburger (6'0 192 lbs. Sr.) are not very big, but they are both good tacklers and have been steady in their play. Parker leads the team with 4 interceptions, and is 4th on the team with 43 tackles while Shamburger is 6th on the team with 39 tackles despite only becoming a starter part way through the season.

At corner, sophomore Marcus Peters (5'11 193 lbs. So.) is Washington's top corner while Gregory Ducre (5'10 178 lbs. Sr.) has played pretty well all season. Peters has three interceptions this season and also scored on a fumble recovery.

***

That concludes the preview of the Washington defense. Fire away with additional thoughts and comments.

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