Victor has been shifting from middle linebacker to an edge-rushing role in certain packages for the UW defense this season.
Finally, Azeem Victor was back. Back to form. Back to punishing. Back in control in the middle of Washington’s defense during the Huskies’ victory at Colorado two weeks ago.
And then he wasn’t again.
Since he sustained a broken leg against USC last November, it has been a tumultuous 10 months for the senior middle linebacker.
By April, he was back on the field for the Huskies, running at near full speed.
This summer, he was named a preseason All-American by The Associated Press.
Then, less than a week before the start of the season, Chris Petersen announced Victor would serve a one-game suspension for the season opener at Rutgers.
Victor started the next four games for the No. 5 Huskies, and at times again looked like the Huskies’ most valuable defensive player against Colorado on Sept. 23. He had a team-high 10 tackles that night, including his first sack of the season.
But then, in Saturday’s victory over Cal, Victor didn’t make his first appearance on defense until the the Bears’ third possession of the game, late in the first quarter. Junior Ben Burr-Kirven got the start at middle linebacker, and Victor was the third wheel in the rotation with Burr-Kirven and senior weak-side linebacker Keishawn Bierria.
Burr-Kirven leads the Huskies with 40 tackles this season. Bierria and Victor each have 19 tackles.
“The guy that’s playing (well) gets rewarded,” UW defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said after the Huskies’ 38-7 victory over Cal.
Also, part of the game plan for Cal, Kwiatkowski explained, was he wanted Victor coming off the edge as a pass-rusher. That’s a role Victor said he welcomes.
“Our D-coordinator said he wants a little more on the edge, so I’m just trying to help out in that position as well,” Victor said. “It’s been pretty good. Just coming down on third down.”
Petersen said Monday that Victor is healthy. Victor, in his first interview since the start of the regular season, was asked Tuesday if there’s been a transition period for him coming back from such a devastating injury.
“No,” he said. “I put on a little bit of weight. But besides that, just getting back in the groove of things. I think that’s probably the biggest thing for me.”
He was asked “how hard” it’s been to get back to form.
“It really hasn’t been hard,” he said. “You’ve just got to stick to it. You just have to learn from your experiences and keep moving forward, and that’s what I’ve been doing.
“Just focusing on being here right now,” he added, “and doing whatever I can for the team to help out.”