Huskies' depth at linebacker being tested
Injuries and attrition are an inevitable — if unpleasant — part of football at any level, particularly during the dog days of...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Injuries and attrition are an inevitable — if unpleasant — part of football at any level, particularly during the dog days of training camp.
And coaches lament that the personnel issues too often seem to hit one position.
For Washington, that spot this year, suddenly, is linebacker — a position that was already something of a question mark heading into the season with the loss of starting middle linebacker Cort Dennison to graduation and the need for improvement everywhere.
UW coach Steve Sarkisian said after Friday's practice that projected starting strongside linebacker Nate Fellner will be out roughly four weeks after breaking his fifth metatarsal in practice Thursday.
Fellner, who started 20 games the past three years at safety, was moved to linebacker in the spring as UW searched for answers to shore up that spot and also looked to put players where they best fit in some of the new schemes of first-year defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.
"We know what (the injury) is. It's nothing worse. There's no ligament damage. Hopefully he gets back sooner rather than later," Sarkisian said.
Fellner's absence, though, was among the reasons UW had just eight linebackers available for practice Friday.
Also missing was junior Garret Gilliland, who has given up football, according to Sarkisian. Gilliland started two games and played regularly as a reserve the past two seasons.
Also missing was starting junior weakside linebacker Princeton Fuimaono, who is battling a hamstring injury. Sarkisian said it isn't serious and Fuimaono is being kept out mostly for precautionary reasons. Also out is junior strongside linebacker Taz Stevenson, battling migraines, and freshman Blake Rodgers, struggling to get past a nagging knee injury. And UW's depth took a shot in the offseason when redshirt freshman Matt Lyons decided to transfer.
Still, Sarkisian said that with the eventual expected return of the injured players, he isn't too concerned about the depth at linebacker.
"Our numbers aren't the issue there," he said. "It's getting the right guys on the field at the right spots."
Filling in Friday were sophomore Jamaal Kearse, who took most of the snaps in place of Fuimaono, and redshirt freshman Scott Lawyer, who filled in for Fellner. Those two often flanked sophomore John Timu, who has moved to the middle after starting last season outside.
Williams sorry to miss Mathieu
Washington players found out Friday morning the news that shook college football — that Louisiana State had dismissed star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.
While UW fans might not have been sorry to see LSU potentially weakened when it hosts the Huskies on Sept. 8, receiver Kasen Williams — who figured to have the most direct confrontations with Mathieu — had a different reaction.
"I was looking forward to it (facing Mathieu)," Williams said. "Because if I have goals of becoming a Biletnikoff winner, what's a better way to do it than to go for 100 (yards) against a Heisman Trophy candidate? So that would have been a real big challenge for me. I actually found out this morning at breakfast and I got mad."
• Senior receiver James Johnson, a projected starter, sat out with what Sarkisian called a "sprain in his foot that I think is more of a day to day, nothing structural."