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Is Huskies' defense better, or is Dawgs' offense worse?

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By Scott M. Johnson
Herald Writer
Published:
  • UW's Ken Egu (left) and Garret Gilliland (top) combine to tackle tight end Evan Hudson (80) in the first half of Saturday's spring game.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    UW's Ken Egu (left) and Garret Gilliland (top) combine to tackle tight end Evan Hudson (80) in the first half of Saturday's spring game.

SEATTLE -- The ever-growing phenomenon known as spring football can be a pretty handy tool when it comes to settling position battles, installing new systems and establishing revised roles.
What it can't necessarily do is decipher just how good a team, or an individual unit, might be against the opposition.
And so after the University of Washington's month of spring football was characterized by one side of the football dominating the other, it still leaves a huge question heading into the fall. Is the Huskies' defense that much better, or is the offense that much worse?
Not until games start in September will we truly know the answer, but for now Husky Nation can at least feel pretty good about the hiring of defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and three other defensive assistants.
That being said, there were a few other things to come out of spring football that were worth noting.
Among them:
n Positional merry-go-round: Several players have changed positions. Safeties Nate Fellner, Evan Zeger and Taz Stevenson are now at outside linebacker, defensive ends Talia Crichton and Andrew Hudson are working at an inside-outside positions in the 3-4 scheme, Josh Shirley is playing more of a hybrid "leo" position of linebacker/defensive end and linebacker Cooper Pelluer has changed sides to play fullback. Princeton Fuimaono and John Timu, who started at outside linebacker last season, are basically inside linebackers now in the 3-4.
n Unsettled battles: The offensive line could have two new starting tackles in Micah Hatchie and Ben Riva, but they did little in the spring to make fans forget recent NFL draft pick Senio Kelemete. James Atoe and Stanwood High School product Dexter Charles are also battling for starting jobs on a revamped offensive line that took a huge hit when guard Colin Porter called it quits due to recurring shoulder problems. The halfback competition is also wide open, with neither Jesse Callier nor Bishop Sankey standing out in the spring. Senior Justin Glenn had a solid spring at safety, but incoming freshman Shaq Thompson should push him for the starting job. And the spring struggles of No. 2 quarterback Derrick Brown left the door open for incoming freshmen Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles to get a shot at the role.
n New hands still emerging: Wide receivers James Johnson and Kasen Williams are stepping into the shoes of playmakers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, but they still have to show an ability to get open. UW's cornerbacks were super-sticky in coverage this spring, and Williams was especially noticeable in his inability to make plays. Quarterback Keith Price and Williams spent many a post-practice working on finding the chemistry that eluded them most of the spring.
n Stepping up: In addition to the receiver position, there are several other spots where new players could make an impact. Defensive tackle Danny Shelton will be a bigger factor in the fall, while players like cornerback Marcus Peters, No. 2 tight end Michael Hartvigson and backup receiver Joshua Perkins also showed some flashes this spring.
n Not ready for prime time? Running back Antavius Sims and wide receiver Marvin Hall, both of whom sat out the 2011 season due to NCAA clearinghouse issues, were rather quiet this spring. Sims was supposed to be a major piece to the backfield puzzle, but his transition from quarterback to tailback has taken longer than expected. And Hall was pretty quiet all spring, taking a backseat while youngsters like Perkins and DiAndre Campbell stepped forward.
As is often the case in the spring, there might be more questions than answers after the allotted 15 practices. Price still hasn't looked fully recovered from his injured left knee. Freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins wasn't the playmaker he'll be expected to be in the fall -- most likely because of his heavy activity load created by three months playing for the UW basketball team.
The Huskies are also waiting for starting defensive end Hau'oli Jamora, No. 3 receiver Kevin Smith and starting guard Colin Tanigawa to return from injuries that kept them out all spring. And senior receiver Cody Bruns should be a bigger factor in both the passing game and return game once he gets over the ankle problems that slowed him all spring.
With some healthy veterans, a new class of freshmen and a group of new assistants who are more comfortable with the personnel, the fall should provide more intrigue and culminate with a few answers.
But as we learn every spring, the real answers won't come until the opposition lines up in September.
Latest signings
In addition to Saturday's news that former Huskies Kearse (Seattle Seahawks) and Chris Polk (Philadelphia Eagles) had signed free-agent contracts, two more players from in-state schools found homes Sunday.
Aguilar signed with the Tennessee Titans, while Washington State linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis signed with the St. Louis Rams after going undrafted last week.
Story tags » Huskies Football

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