Going into the 2009 season the linebacker position appeared to be one of the strengths of the defense.
With two starters returning, and a starter from the 2007 season returning, it looked to be all three were to bring starting experience into 2009.
In the end four players ended up with playing time and provided 274 tackles on the year.
As part of the turnover of coaching staff, this unit had a new position coach for 2009, Mike Cox. Cox is an alumnus of the University of Idaho, where he played the linebacker position.
He has been in the coaching ranks since 1987, mostly focusing on linebackers and defensive line. His last stop prior to Washington was in the NFL, where after the coaching change last season he became the linebackers coach for the remainder of the year for St. Louis.
He led a strong Husky Linebacking unit in 2009, and looks to replace at least one senior. Going into the season the group had two senior starters, Donald Butler and EJ Savannah, but Savannah was hurt and only played in eight games. He was hampered by the injury all year, and is applying for another year of eligibility.
The coaching staff is optimistic that he gets it.
Going into 2010 this unit looks to have 15 or 16 players, depending on the NCAA’s decision on Savannah. The recruiting class features four players that are listed to play linebacker at this time, replacing the four or five outgoing seniors. Let’s take a look at the two deeps going into 2010.
Foster, best known for his game clinching interception off his shoelaces against Arizona in 2009, will be the anchor of this unit going into the 2010 season. Foster, who played in all 12 games, led the team in interceptions, and was behind only Donald Butler in tackles with 85. Backing up Foster is a junior in Matt Houston.
Donald Butler was the anchor for this unit going into the 2009 season, and did not disappoint. Appearing in all 12 games, Butler was the team leader in tackles and tackles for a loss. He was named to the all Pac-10 Second team, and listed as an honorable mention All-American by Sports Illustrated. Replacing him will be the biggest challenge going into 2010.
Looking to take his spot will be sophomore Cort Dennison. Dennison started in four games in place of an injured EJ Savannah, and looks to be the man to take over for Butler, even if EJ does not get another year of eligibility. He produced 52 tackles on the year.
Savannah has had an interesting experience in his time at Washington. He went from a starter in 2007, to not on the team in 2008, due to differences with Coach Ty Willingham. Regardless of the reason, EJ was accepted back on the team by the new staff and given the opportunity to start. Savannah was plagued by injures all year, but he did start in eight of the games.
The coaching staff likes the chances that he will be granted another year, and envision a starting lineup of Mason-Dennison-Savannah.
While Savannah was backed up by Dennison in 2009, it looks like he will be sliding into the inside linebacker spot vacated by Butler. If Savannah is not granted another year, the Huskies will have to find another replacement for 2010.
The next on the depth chart is Matt Houston, who will be a senior going into 2010. Going into 2009 the next highest listed returning player would be Fred Wiggs.
Once we find out the situation for Savannah we will have a better idea what the starting three will look like.
The 2010 recruiting class is looking to bring in four players for the linebacker spots. We will take brief look at the four
Chris Young of Auburn Senior High School, Auburn, Washington is a four star linebacker recruit per Scout. Young stands at 6-1 and 220 pounds, but does not have a 40-yard dash time listed. Young plays Defensive Back as well, and is listed as a three star recruit per rivals at that position.
He does project to play the linebacker position at Washington, although he did play running back as well in High School. Has a reputation has an extremely hard hitter. Young is listed as the number one linebacker recruit for the Northwest.
Victor Burnett of Culver City High School in Culver City, California is a three star linebacker recruit per both Scout and Rivals. Burnett is 6-1 and 225 pounds with a 4.6 40-yard dash time. According to his Scout profile, during the 2008 season he recorded 182 tackles, 10 sacks, and two forced fumbles.
His senior year he missed three games due to a calf pull, but still put up 86 tackles, six sacks, and two forced fumbles. Burnett is said to have good sideline-sideline speed and projects to the inside linebacker position out of High School.
Princeton Fuimaono of Jordan High School in Long Beach, California is a three star linebacking recruit on both Scout and Rivals. Fuimaono is 6-1 and 205 pounds with a 4.6 40 40-yard dash. During the 2008 season he provided 96 total tackles. He had interest in two other PAC-10 schools, Arizona and Oregon, before committing to Washington.
Darius Waters of Lakes High School in Lakewood, Washington is a three star recruit per both Scout and Rivals. Waters is 6-2 and 215 points with a 4.6 40-yard dash.
As a senior playing the defensive end position for Lakes he provided 26 tackles and 4.5 sacks. According to his profile by Tom Lemming on MaxPreps he has good foot speed and instincts for the ball, and should transition well to the linebacker position.
Rivals lists a fifth recruit being committed, Garret Gilliland, but no other sources confirm it at this time.
The outlook depends a lot on if EJ Savannah can return, but also if he can stay healthy as well. The most highly ranked returning back up players, in terms of recruiting stars, would be Tim Tucker and Alvin Logan at three stars.
Recruiting rankings aren’t everything, however, and there are a lot of bodies on the roster to take up the spot if Savannah is to go. An example would be this year’s leading tackler, Donald Butler, was a two star per Scout.
They can be a decent indicator on talent, and 2010 looks like a solid class. There should be enough depth to give them time to get used to the speed of the college game. While not as solid going into 2010 at this point, the potential is there for this unit to excel. Look for this unit to have a solid showing in 2010.