In the previous article the offense was graded, now it is time to take a look at the defense.
Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt had a monumental task in turning around the 110th ranked total defense from 2008. So how did he and his staff do?
While the first year under Nick Holt did not produce a lot of statistics that jump off the page, there was steady improvement throughout the year for the defense.
Holt was able to keep the Huskies in position to win more games this year by lowering the points per game total by 12 points from 2008.
In the final two games of the season, the Huskies dominated, giving up at total of 10 points. In addition to the difference in points given up, Holt was able to move his defense to 74th in the national in total defensive.
Defense against the Run: C+
The defensive line was anchored by two seniors in Darrion Jones and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. Te’o-Nesheim, a standout defensive end, has been consistent despite getting double-teamed often.
Te’O-Nesheim only had one game where he did not record a tackle or sack this season. He was able to get to the quarterback a total of 11 times with nine counting as solo sacks.
The linebacking unit began the season with two seniors in starting positions, but ended with only one as E.J. Savannah had injury issues all year.
Senior Donald Butler lead the team with 72 solo tackles, with Junior Mason Foster coming in second with 60.
The Husky run defense was able to improve from being ranked 117th to 67th in the nation from 2008 to 2009 against the run.
In 2008, the Huskies gave up 33 touchdowns at 5.69 yards per carry. In contrast n the Huskies only gave up only 17 TD’s on 4.52 yards per carry in 2009.
Defense against the Pass: C-
The secondary for the Washington Huskies in 2009 is characterized by its youth. The unit consisted of two true freshmen, one sophomore, and a junior.
With that kind of youth in the secondary it is no surprise that the improvements in pass defense were not near as great as those made by the run defense.
In 2008, the Huskies gave up an average of 211 yards a game through the air. In 2009 the defense gave up 240 yards per game. While they did give up more yards, they also had 30 more pass plays run against them this year.
While the raw numbers don’t show improvement, the pass efficiency defensive stats do. Washington improved from 155.64 to 139.77 in pass efficiency ratings. That moved from 115th to 97th ranked in the nation.
This pass defense also was around the same in interceptions taking away nine passes this year compared to eight the year before.
The leader for the defensive backs was true freshman Desmond Trufant with one interception. The overall interception leader was linebacker Mason Foster with three.
While the Huskies were passed against more frequently, this young secondary was able to grow tremendously through the season, and looks to be a bright spot for the defense in 2010, as there is a lot of room for improvement still.
The defensive line was able tog improve on pressuring the quarterback,however, improving from 16 sacks to 27! Providing pressure on the QB is key to a good pass defense, as the more time the quarterback has to throw the more they can expose a secondary.
Looking at the overall picture this was still a bad defense, ranking in the lower half of the NCAA in several categories.
However, when compared to last year’s effort there was improvement. That is on the coaches developing players, as well as them buying into the coaching staffs schemes.
The numbers were not great, and nowhere near where we want to get to, but it was solid improvement for year one of the Nick Holt era on defense.
They played well enough for 10 of the 12 games to keep the Huskies in striking distance until the very end.
The last two games showed an aggressive defense that reminded us of the glory days, when the Huskies were known for their stout defense.
This gave us a glimpse of what kind of defense Holt envisions for this team when he feels all his players are comfortable in his system. The offense was the star of the show this year, but the defense made steady improvement as well.