Timu moved from outside linebacker to the inside position and will shoulder the responsibility of calling UW's defensive signals.
When Washington linebacker John Timu responds to a question with a “yes,” he tends to punctuate the answer with the additional phrase “big time.”
Big time, though, might also describe where the Huskies think Timu is headed as he enters his sophomore season.
Timu started eight games at outside linebacker last season, so he wasn’t exactly off-Broadway in 2011.
But needing to fill the middle-linebacker spot following the graduation of two-year starter Cort Dennison, the Huskies looked no further than Timu, simply having him slide a few feet inside the defensive formation.
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The transition isn’t quite that simple, as the middle linebacker is generally entrusted with calling defensive plays and getting everyone lined up properly.
“We hope he is one of our leaders of our defense,” said coach Steve Sarkisian. “He is a very mature kid, he has a really high football IQ. He’s the center of the defense right now, so we’re hoping for a big year.”
Sarkisian said, in his eyes, moving Timu to middle linebacker from the strongside spot he played last season was a no-brainer. Timu played quarterback in high school, which Sarkisian thinks gives Timu an edge in knowing how to call signals before the play.
And while Timu arrived as a safety at roughly 205 pounds, Sarkisian felt he had the body type to get bigger. Timu played at around 215 last season, and says he’s up to about 235 now. Sarkisian lauded Timu’s work in the weight room, calling him “one of the top three or four guys in our program from an offseason standpoint.”
“I think technique will help him to take the strength and then fit it with proper technique to take on blockers, to shed blockers, to make the tough tackles against the bigger backs and tight ends,” Sarkisian said.
Timu’s happy to do what it takes to get on the field, having missed more than his share of games the past few seasons.
He was the Player of the Year in the Moore League at Long Beach (Calif.) Jordan High as a junior in 2008. But in the second game of his senior season, shortly after committing to UW over offers from Oregon and Hawaii, he tore his ACL.
“I’d never even heard of an ACL injury, so there were some times I thought football was over,” he said. “But I kept my head up and stayed positive.”
It helped him, he said, that UW never wavered in its commitment of a scholarship, saying “it was a true blessing for those guys to keep their word.”
He sat out the fall of 2010 as a “greyshirt” — a term for incoming freshmen who delay their enrollment — to further rehab the injury, arriving early in 2011, making him a true freshman last season.
He earned a starting role in 2011, then saw the injury bug hit again in a frightening manner when he suffered a neck injury in a head-on collision with Cal center Dominic Galas in the fourth game of the season. Timu was taken off the field in an ambulance, briefly unable to move, though sensation returned pretty quickly. He was later diagnosed with a deep stinger and missed only one game.
Now he considers the injuries distant memories. While the two linebacker spots on each side of him have been revolving doors throughout camp due to injuries to other players, Timu has been a rock in the middle, the one constant at a position group that may be UW’s biggest question mark on a defense undergoing an extensive makeover under new coordinator Justin Wilcox.
“Everything is coming along,” Timu said. “Guys are learning a new system — we bought in fast, and now we’ve just got to improve every day. We want to come out here and prove to the world that we are better than what we showed last year.”
• No new apparent injuries from UW’s Wednesday practice as the Huskies began focusing on the game plan for their opener against San Diego State Sept. 1. UW’s next three practices concluding camp are closed to the media.
• Seeing his most significant work of camp was offensive lineman Erik Kohler, who suffered a dislocated kneecap the first day of camp. He is working primarily at guard and center.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org