Washington Huskies Football spring preview: Defense

On Wednesday I previewed the offense. If you missed the preview for the offense, visit our Washington Football page. For the defense I will pick up right where I left off.

Shaq Thomson LB

How can anyone talk about the husky football team and not mention Shaq Thompson? When Steve Sarkisian and company stole Thompson from Cal in 2012, he landed one of the most talented athletes in all of the nation.The past two seasons Thompson has proven that he was worth the attention he received as a high school recruit despite having to change positions.

[Washington Huskies Football spring preview: Offense]

Washington football

Shaq Thompson came in as the number one ranked safety in the nation

If Chris Petersen is proof that good coaching can prove recruit ranking systems wrong, Thompson is proof that sometimes they are right. An absolute monster on the field since his arrival, this year should be even better for number seven. However, with much more depth in the front seven compared to the back four, I expect to see Thompson playing more coverage and potentially allowing guys like the soon to be mentioned Azeem Victor to make more plays in the box. Whatever is asked of Thompson, I have no doubt that he will excel at it. Thompson could easily be a top ten pick come next spring’s NFL draft, in the mean time, I am going to appreciate his play in the purple and gold while it still lasts.

Elijah Qualls DT

A 4* defensive tackle out of high school, Elijah Qualls redshirted last season  preserving a year of eligibility. This year Qualls should have an excellent opportunity to earn significant playing time. Hovering right around 300 pounds, Qualls provides the husky coaching staff with another large body to plug up the middle to go along with veteran Danny Shelton. Given his past days as a running back in high school, Qualls possesses a rare combination of size, speed, and agility that should easily create pressure up the middle when paired with Shelton. The PAC 12 boasts many of the nation’s toughest run attacks. Having two domineering interior lineman will be imperative if the huskies expect to legitimately contend for a Rose Bowl.

Azeem Victor LB

Another redshirt freshman, Azeem Victor figures to get a lot of reps this Saturday. Given John Timu’s recent legal struggles and suspension of the first half of spring, Victor should have an opportunity to show what skills he can bring to the inside linebacker position. Unlike many of his counterparts who converted from safety, Victor immediately looked the part of an inside linebacker the day he arrived on campus. The 6-foot-3, 243-pound athlete brings more size and physicality to the position compared to recent years. That is not to say that the husky linebackers have not been physical, but former defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox was willing to trade a little bit of size for more speed at the position. New D coordinator Peter Kwiatkowski will not have that problem with Victor. A physical presence in the middle with a pension for making big hits, Victor fits the mold of a typical NFL linebacker as only a redshirt freshman. I doubt Victor will overtake Timu as starting ILB, but with his physical style and ability to make game changing hits, expect Victor’s name to be called early and often come fall.

Jermaine Kelly CB

Last season Marcus Peters had the task of taking over for a NFL caliber cornerback. He did an amazing job and has solidified himself as a high round hopeful whenever he chooses to leave. At the other cornerback position, Jermaine Kelly looks to be the lead candidate to replace Greg Ducre. Unlike what was asked of Peters after Trufant left, Kelly will not be filling massive shoes left by Ducre. This is a spot where I think husky football fans should expect a step up in productivity. The former 4* cornerback spent last season redshirting and made the most of it by winning defensive scout squad MVP for the dawgs. This comes as no surprise given his four star prospect rating and 6-foot-1, 188-pound frame. It is hard to project how good he will really be, but the potential he possesses should make fans and coaches alike happy. Pair him with Peters and the huskies boast a combo of size and strength out wide that mimics the likes of Seattle’s beloved Seahawks. Between Peters likely seeing less targets because of his success, as well as two new safeties anchoring the back end, Kelly’s ability to adjust quickly will be necessary if the dawgs want to keep up with the versatile passing attacks of the PAC 12.