SEATTLE — Entering just his second year at the University of Washington, sophomore starting linebacker John Timu sounded a bit like a wise, old sage earlier this week.
“Opportunity is a big word,” he said. “Guys have to step up.”
For a few UW players, the window of opportunity has opened wide due to unforeseen circumstances. While transfers, retirement and injury have depleted the Huskies of some key players, the chance for playing time has invigorated some of those left behind.
“In a situation like this, when people go down, certain guys step up,” said linebacker Scott Lawyer, a redshirt freshman linebacker who has been working with the first team this week. “It’s unfortunate, but I’ve got to hold it down for right now.”
Since the end of last season, the Huskies have lost backup quarterback Nick Montana to transfer, starting guard Colin Porter to career-ending shoulder injuries, running back Deontae Cooper to another knee injury and linebacker Garret Gilliland, who decided to quit playing football.
Injuries to guard Erik Kohler (dislocated kneecap), defensive end Hao’li Jamora (sprained knee), wide receiver James Johnson (dislocated wrist) and linebackers Princeton Fuimaono (strained hamstring), Taz Stevenson (migraines), Jamaal Kearse (stress fracture in the foot), Thomas Tutogi (sprained knee) and Nate Fellner (broken foot) have cost UW even more bodies this week, although all of them are expected back when the season begins.
Among the players who could end up benefitting from some of the missing practice players:
QB Cyler Miles
It’s way too early to handicap the race for the job of Keith Price’s primary backup, but Miles has certainly made an impression thus far. After Montana’s transfer, the job was out there for the taking, and redshirt freshman Derrick Brown did very little in the spring to put a stranglehold on it. With Montana out of the picture, the backup job will fall on Brown or one of two true freshmen: Miles or Mercer Island native Jeff Lindquist.
RB Erich Wilson II
The freshman from the Bay Area became UW’s No. 3 tailback when Cooper went down with another injury last week. True freshman running backs like Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey have found ways to get onto the field in recent years, and Wilson could add his name to that list this season.
WR Jaydon Mickens
The true freshman from Los Angeles has been making plays all camp, and a recent wrist injury to Johnson, a projected starter, will only help his push for playing time. With sophomore Kevin Smith still recovering from knee surgery, and the uncertain status surrounding freshman receiver Joshua Perkins, Mickens is emerging as an important part of the rotation at wideout.
G James Atoe
Formerly a tackle, Atoe has moved inside to fill Kohler’s role at right guard. Kohler has struggled with injuries for much of his college career, and left guard Colin Tanigawa is coming off knee surgery, so there could be an opportunity for Atoe to make the starting lineup even when the season begins. Stanwood High School graduate Dexter Charles could also figure in the mix, although right now he’s working as the No. 2 left tackle.
LB Travis Feeney
The latest of four safeties to move to linebacker this offseason, Feeney saw some immediate action with the first team following the injuries to Fellner and Tutogi. He’s tall but lean, with unexpected pop, and the redshirt freshman has made an immediate impact this week. Starting spots are out there for the taking at the linebacker position, and Feeney has certainly thrown his name into the mix in a hurry.
LB Scott Lawyer
Another redshirt who’s hoping to make more of an impact this season, Lawyer has been running with the first team at strongside linebacker. The 6-foot-2, 223-pound plugger from San Jose played defensive end in high school, and he has versatility on his side. Like Feeney, Lawyer could get a legitimate chance because of a new coaching staff and change in scheme.