With the graduations of Keishawn Bierria, Azeem Victor and Sean Constantine, there are a lot of moving parts at linebacker for the Huskies (but less flowing hair).
There is a new look at inside linebacker for the Washington Huskies this year.
Yes, there are lot of moving parts at the position, notably with the graduation of Keishawn Bierria, Azeem Victor and Sean Constantine. To boost their dwindling depth inside, UW coaches asked Tevis Bartlett to switch from outside linebacker to the weak-side position.
There is one new look, in particular, that is striking this spring: Ben Burr-Kirven cut his hair.
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The long blond locks that flowed out of the back of Burr-Kirven’s helmet the past two seasons are gone, unceremoniously chopped off and swept away one day this winter. He said he looked into donating his hair to a Locks of Love-type charity, but his hair didn’t meet the specific requirements.
So, he said, “I just let the hair-cutter sweep it up.”
As a junior, Burr-Kirven led the Huskies with 84 tackles last season, earning second-team all-Pac-12 recognition (in addition to first-team all-academic honors for the second straight year). After shedding all that hair, he said one of his top goals this spring is to better shed the blocks of offensive linemen.
By all accounts, Burr-Kirven should again be one of the Huskies’ most reliable defenders, and he says his former roommate, Bartlett, should be as well this fall.
“This is probably the biggest changeover we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Burr-Kirven said. “Obviously we graduated three guys and we’ve got Tevis coming in. It’s a big change.
“But a guy like Tevis, he’s been here for four years with me and he understands the defense so well that I think the switch has been smooth so far. He’s asking the right questions, he’s working hard and he’s in the film room probably more than anyone else right now. So I think it’s going to work out well.”
For Burr-Kirven and Bartlett, two established seniors, filling Bierria’s leadership responsibilities is a priority.
“I don’t think you can replace a guy like Keishawn. He was the heartbeat of our team, the emotional leader,” Bartlett said. “He always gave the pregame speech and all that type of stuff, and he was great at it. We’re going to miss him for sure. I think it’s something where we all have to step up. It’s not going to be that one guy that replaces that. We all have to take part in that.”
The Huskies have just five inside linebackers available this spring: Burr-Kirven and Bartlett, the two projected starters, plus junior Kyler Manu and senior walk-ons Jake Wambaugh and Matt Preston.
“Those guys are taking a lot of snaps, so we’ve got to be smart with all that,” linebackers coach Bob Gregory said. “But they’re doing a great job out there. They’re getting a lot of reps.”
Junior Brandon Wellington is out this spring as he continues to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee late last season, and coaches are being cautious with junior DJ Beavers after he missed most of last season with a foot injury.