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Times reporter Bob Condotta keeps the news coming about the Montlake Dawgs.

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January 30, 2008 12:56 PM

Breaking down the linebackers

Posted by Bob Condotta

As noted here in previous days, questions you have had about the series that has run in our paper this week will be addressed soon by Executive Editor David Boardman. He is expected to be on KIRO-AM 710 at 5 p.m. to talk about the series. He will also be on KJR-AM at 7:35 p.m. He will also answer questions on our Web site and in the paper in coming days.

As for the blog, we'll continue here as we always have, and with that in mind, I wanted to present a look at the linebackers in continuing our off-season overview of the team, as well as looking at the possibilities of shifting to a 3-4.

RETURNING STARTERS: 2 (weakside linebacker E.J. Savannah, middle linebacker Trenton Tuiasosopo/Donald Butler).

STARTERS LOST: 1 (strongside linebacker Dan Howell).

KEY RESERVES LOST: Strongside linebacker Kyle Trew.

KEY RESERVES RETURNING: Weakside linebacker Chris Stevens, WLB/SLB Mason Foster.

LOOK AHEAD: This will be one of UW's more experienced groups heading into the 2008 season with Savannah, Tuiasosopo, Butler, Foster and Stevens all having significant starting experience --- a combined 27 to date. Savannah will be back as the starting WLB with Butler (who should be recovered fine for spring ball after missing four games last season with knee problems) and Tuiasosopo again battling in the middle. If the team stays in a 4-3, the most likely scenario is Foster, a true sophomore who made 25 tackles last season, most coming late in the year, moving over to take Howell's spot at the SLB. If the team were to go to a 3-4, it could mean Butler and Tuiasosopo playing in the middle together, or maybe Foster in the mix in the middle with Stevens playing outside. There will certainly be lots of options, however, for apparent new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell to consider (nothing official yet on him as I finish this).

Assuming, for now, a stay in the 4-3, a prospective two-deep heading into next spring might look like this:

WLB E.J. Savannah, Jr.
Chris Stevens, Sr.

MLB Donald Butler, Jr./Trenton Tuiasosopo, Sr.

SLB Mason Foster, So.
Matt Houston, Jr.

ALSO ON THE ROSTER: Scholarship players: Cort Dennison, RFr.; Austin Sylvester, So. Walk-ons: Josh Gage, Sr., Pete Galbraith, So., Brandon Huppert, Jr., T.J. Poe, Sr.,

POSSIBLE NEWCOMERS: Kurt Mangum, a commit from Chandler, Ariz., has said he will enroll in time for spring ball. He said last week he is likely to be either an MLB or WLB for the Huskies. (Mangum is the only player in the 2008 class listed as an LB. UW is also still recruiting Paipai Falemalu, an SLB from Hawaii, who may not make a decision until real close to signing day. It's thought UW coach Tyrone Willingham visited him this week).

COMMENT: Depth could be a bit of an issue here, especially if UW goes to a 3-4, as after the five who have played, there is little experience. Dennison redshirted last season while Sylvester played some special teams. He also spent time at FB last season but is listed solely as an LB on the spring roster. Mangum will get a head start which should only improve his chances of getting in the mix. As for the walk-ons, Gage, who played on the outside, was the most significant contributor and could also factor in.

Overall, this is a position or promise for the Huskies, one that could be a strength. Still, like the entire defense, this is also a position that has a lot of proving to do, as well. Savannah, for instance, showed a great knack for making plays, and making a lot of them, but needs to become more consistent. Tuiasosopo, while making notable improvement in pass coverage as the season progresses, still needs to get better in that department to become an every-down player there. Butler seemed to struggle against the run at times.

Given the uncertainty of just how the defense will look heading into spring, however, this looms as one of the most interesting positions to watch.


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