Defensive Preview: Domination Seems To Continue With Freshman Coordinator Bob Gregory | Soccer


Second-year defensive back Trent McDuffie watches his teammates during defensive drills during football practice at Husky Stadium Practice Field on August 16, 2021. McDuffie is one of the Huskies veterans under the direction of the First Defensive Coordinator John Donovan year.

Washington head coach Jimmy Lake prides himself on having a strong defense year after year, and this season will be no exception.

While the Huskies are returning a number of starters from last year, veteran leadership may be lacking in the locker room, with just three screened starters having more than 10 career starts. In total, Washington’s projected starting defense has 94 starts, but 32 of them come from one man: junior transfer Brendan Radley-Hiles.

Losing defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski will also be something Washington will have to deal with, but by promoting from within and letting linebacker coach Bob Gregory take over as defensive coordinator, Washington is maintaining the same system in square.

While the Washington defense doesn’t have the most starts under their belt, aside from having a new defensive coordinator, they still have plenty of talent to meet Lake’s high expectations.

Defensive line

This is a group of positions where Wasington will go through many bodies during matches in order to keep everyone in the know, as well as use situation packages that depend on the opponent and the situation of the player. Game.

However, two players seem to have the edge over the competition: sophomores Tuli Letuligasenoa and Sam Taimani.

Letuligasenoa was set to have a big year in 2020 after registering 23 tackles in 2019, but an injury forced him to miss the first two games of the abridged season. While Letuligasenoa only started one game in 2020, he made an instant impact, finishing with five tackles, including one for loss. Expect big things from Letuligasenoa this year if he can stay healthy.

Alongside Letuligasenoa on the nose tackle, it’s likely Sam Taimani, someone defensive coordinator Ikaika Malloe has, in the past, called Letuligasenoa’s twin.

At 6 feet, 2 inches, and 330 pounds, Taimani has the size to be Washington’s next great indoor defensive lineman. In 2020, Taimani started all four of the team’s games, recording 10 total tackles.

After Latuiligasenoa and Taimani, there will be a handful of players for Washington to turn. Two who jump are the freshmen in red shirts Jacob Bandes and Faatui Tuitele; both players made all four games last year and had consistent reps on the defensive line throughout fall camp.


The linebacker position, especially inside linebackers, is considered the leader of any defense. For Washington, this statement rings true with sophomore Edefuan Ulofoshio, a defense anchor.

Ulofoshio’s story is well known; come to Washington as a substitute, eventually winning the starting position by the end of the 2019 season. Ulofoshio broke out in 2020, ending the year with 47 total tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles, one escaped recovery and four pass deflections.

As this season dawns, national media have taken notice of Ulofoshio. Pro Football Focus named him to their 2021 preseason first team All-America squad, and he was named to the preseason watchlist for a number of top defensive player awards.

Ulofoshio’s running mate at inside linebacker will again be second student Jackson Sirmon. Ulofoshio and Sirmon have excellent chemistry on the football field and are close friends, having been roommates in their first year.

Unlike inside linebackers, the outside linebacker position wears question marks until 2021, largely due to injuries, including the breaking of second-year Achilles Zion Tupuola-Fetui.

Although Lake has said Tupuola-Fetui will return at some point this year, Washington will need to determine who to partner with sixth-year Ryan Bowman to start the season.

There are a handful of players vying for this spot, none better known than freshman Sav’ell Smalls. Smalls was a local five-star Kennedy Catholic player in the Class of 2020. Last year Smalls saw some action, playing in all four games, even winning a start.

Other names to watch for that second outside linebacker are red-shirt rookie Bralen Trice and junior Jeremiah Martin.

Trice is an unproven young player who has never seen any game action but has received rave reviews from coaches throughout the camp leading up to this season. Martin is a transfer from Texas A&M, where he spent his first three seasons and appeared in 32 games, making him a more experienced player than the other players opposed to Bowman.

Defensive backs

One of the biggest issues surrounding UW defense since the end of the 2020 season has been security.

In 2020, junior Alex Cook started in three of the games and second Asa Turner started all four. For the 2021 season neither of these players may be starting, due to the rigor of the competition when it comes to safety.

Two of the players battling Cook and Turner for the starting spots are sophomores Cameron Williams and Julius Irvin. Williams and Irvin have always had reps with the first team defense and have had nothing but praise sung about them by the coaches.

Williams is a very interesting case; as a true freshman in 2019, he actually started in seven of 13 games and performed well, being named the Second Team All-American Freshman by Pro Football Focus. However, in the 2020 season, Williams was no longer starting.

Another name to watch out for at the point of safety is sophomore Dominique Hampton. He has yet to get a start but has plenty of playing experience, appearing in 19 games in the past three seasons.

While the safety point is still a blow, the cornerback position appears to be rather solidified, with sophomores Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon on the outside, and junior Brendan Radley-Hiles maintaining the position of nickel.

Gordon has three seasons of UW defense experience, having played in 21 games and starting in five. After the 2020 season, Gordon was an honorable member of All Pac-12, the same honor he earned in 2019.

A big question after the 2020 season was about Elijah Molden’s replacement, who turned out to be the transfer of Radley-Hiles, who spent the previous three seasons in Oklahoma, playing 37 games and starting 32.

While replacing Molden is no small task, Radley-Hiles seems up to the challenge.

Special teams

For Washington, finding that consistent kicker has been a struggle lately. Now in his fourth year in Washington, junior Peyton Henry hopes to finally find some consistency.

In 2018, Henry went 16 for 22 on field goals and missed an extra point. 2019 was Henry’s best year, going 19-21 on the pitch and perfect on extra points. However, Henry struggled in a short 2020 season, getting 6 for 9 on field goals and 13 for 14 on extra points.

During his career in Washington, Henry was 4-for-9 from 40 to 49 yards and never attempted a field goal over 50 yards.

As a punter, Washington has a man entering his sixth year in Race Porter. In the 2019 season, Porter set a new school record for the season’s punt average of 44.6 yards per punt.

As for the kick returner and the punt returner, that still remains a slight question mark, with a few players with their names in the hat.

McDuffie is a favorite to land the punt return job, even though he’s only returned three punts in his Washington career, all three last year, with his long run of 45 yards. Other names to watch out for at the punt return point may be receivers Taj Davis and Rome Odunze, both of whom have had reps in practice.

At the return kick position, the overwhelming favorite is Giles Jackson. During his two years at Michigan, Jackson returned 39 kickoffs, averaging 25 yards per return. Jackson also had two touchdowns while returning the ball and a long 97-yard run.

Contact reporter Nathan Mathisen at [email protected] Twitter: @NathanMathisen

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