Huskies planning to use an eight- or nine-man rotation on the defensive line.
In just eight days, the Huskies open the 2015 season on the road against No. 23 Boise State. Kickoff is set for 7:15 p.m. PT (8:15 p.m. in Boise) for an ESPN broadcast.
UW coach Chris Petersen‘s weekly press conference is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Sunday, when UW is expected to distribute its first formal depth chart of the season. Here’s a breakdown of how that depth cart figures to look on defense:
DT: Taniela Tupou, sr., 6-2, 288/Will Dissly, so., 6-4, 277
NT: Elijah Qualls, so., 6-1, 311/Vita Vea, rs-fr., 6-5, 340
DE: Joe Mathis, jr., 6-2, 252/Jaylen Johnson, rs-fr., 6-2, 260
Outlook: It’s an entirely new starting line, and the Huskies are planning to rotate more liberally than they did last year. Dissly will be a jack-of-all-trades, capable of playing tackle or end. Qualls and Mathis need to have a breakthrough season. Vea and Johnson are two redshirt freshmen to watch, and Greg Gaines, Jarett Finau, Damion Turpin and perhaps Shane Bowman figure to be part of the rotation.
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Buck: Travis Feeney, sr., 6-4, 226/Psalm Wooching, jr., 6-4, 236
MLB: Azeem Victor, so., 6-3, 240/Jake Wambaugh, rs-fr., 6-1, 220
WLB: Keishawn Bierria, so., 6-1, 220/Scott Lawyer, sr., 6-2, 232
OLB: Cory Littleton, sr., 6-3, 227/Sean Constantine, so., 6-2, 225
Outlook: The Huskies expect big things from the two veteran outside ‘backers, Feeney and Littleton, and the two young inside linebackers, Victor and Bierria, are poised for breakthrough seasons. Lawyer will be a valuable super sub, capable of filling in at both MIKE and WILL spots. Benning Potoa’e, Tevis Bartlett and Ben Burr-Kirven are true freshmen who could see early playing time, particularly on special teams units.
CB: Sidney Jones, so., 6-0, 178/Brandon Lewis, rs-fr., 5-10, 186
CB: Darren Gardenhire, so., 5-11, 185/Kevin King, jr., 6-3, 183
FS: Budda Baker, so., 5-10, 178/Brandon Beaver, jr., 6-0, 196
SS: Brian Clay, sr., 6-1, 207/Jojo McIntosh, rs-fr., 6-0, 196
Outlook: UW’s biggest question mark a year ago, the secondary now looks like well-built for the future. Baker is the quiet star, and he’ll get some looks on offense this season, too.
“Budda can play on every single thing we have. He can play on offense, he can play on defense, he can play on all of our special teams, without question,” Petersen said. “But he’s also one of those guys, again, who as a true freshman took more reps than anybody, so we’ve got to make sure that we are really smart and we don’t say ‘Budda can do this, Budda can do this.’ We’ve got to get some other guys who can do that as well to just make sure he can last the season.”
Jones, meanwhile, earned his stripes through and up-and-down freshman season, and Gardenhire has been terrific in fall camp. The competition at strong safeties continues with Clay and McIntosh battling junior-college transfer Ezekiel Turner and Trevor Walker, who has recovered from a torn ACL last season. Freshmen cornerbacks Austin Joyner and Jordan Miller could be called upon for depth.
PK: Cameron Van Winkle, jr., 5-10, 184/Tristan Vizcaino, so. 6-2, 205
P: Korey Durkee, sr., 6-4 247/Vizcaino
LS: Ryan Masel, sr., 6-1, 220/Luke Hutchison, so., 6-2, 225
Holder: Jeff Lindquist/Dante Pettis
Kick return: Budda Baker, Jaydon Mickens
Punt return: Dante Pettis/Chico McClatcher
Outlook: Van Winkle, in his first season as the place-kicker, was 20 for 23 in field-goal attempts last season, earning all-Pac-12 honorable-mention honors. He’s fighting to hold off the big leg of Vizcaino, who drew praise from coaches this month. Vizcaino is slated the big the kickoff specialist again this season. In the return game, Baker will get a chance to show off his versatility, with Mickens, McClatcher, Cooper and others in the mix on kickoffs. Pettis, who returned a punt for a touchdown at Colorado last season, appears secure in that role.