BY Todd Dybas 12:08PM 01/06/2011

UW football unit review: Linebackers

Sportspress Northwest continues its week-long review of the UW football team, position by position, and forecasts what to expect in 2011.

Washington middle linebacker Cort Dennison, 31, will be the only returning starter among linebackers next season. (Drew McKenzie/Sports Press Northwest)

All week here at Sportspress Northwest, we’ll breakdown the different units that comprise the Washington football team. A look back and a look forward for the (gasp!) 7-6 Huskies of 2010. A look at the linebackers:

What was thought prior to the season: Mason Foster was a known quantity, as was Cort Dennison. Victor Aiyewa ended up being a plus. Washington was going to be thin at this position and hoped for no major injuries.

What we saw during the season: Foster might as well been sponsored by Garmin considering his built-in GPS used to find the ball. The defensive MVP of the Holiday Bowl finished the year with 163 tackles. Dennison missed the first game against Nebraska because of concussion, but handled his duties as the middle linebacker admirably. What he lacks in speed he makes up for in smarts. Dennison finished with 92 tackles despite missing a game. Aiyewa swung from safety to linebacker, where he led the team in tackles-for-loss with 21. All told, the trio was excellent. Three of Washington’s top four tacklers came from the group.

What’s next for this group: Big change. Dennison will be back for his senior year, but the other two are out, which means Washington loses 27.5 percent of its tackles from 2010. That leaves two green players in the mix next to Dennison who will undoubtedly roam the middle and call the defensive plays again. The likely candidates to join Dennison are Princeton Fuimaono, who made 12 tackles in the 13 games he appeared in, Cooper Pelluer and recent junior college transfer Thomas Tutogi. Garrett Gilliland and Jordan Wallace should also be in the mix.

“It’s another area of, I don’t want to call it concern because I think we’ve got a lot of good, young football players at those positions,” Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “But it’s going to be interesting to watch as they grow as a unit. We’ve obviously got tremendous leadership with Cort Dennison in the middle. But we are going to need some guys to really step up here, to play those two edge spots for us at the linebacker position. I think we’ve got a lot of great candidates there, but only time will tell as we go through the off-season and head into spring ball as to who those guys might be. But we’ve got a lot of good candidates.”

A (huge) guess at the depth chart here, since no one knows what Tutogi or the youngsters will bring:

Fuimaono, So., 6-0, 201
Wallace, So., 6-0, 225

Dennison, Sr., 6-1, 236
Gilliland, So., 6-0, 215

Tutogi, So., 6-1, 235
Pelleur, So., 6-3, 221

However it shakes out, this unit will evolve, on paper, from the strongest on the defense to the weakest.