BY Todd Dybas 06:11AM 09/01/2010

Offense is nice, but what about the defense?

There are still holes in Washington’s defense.

Washington defensive linemen Cameron Elisara, left, and Alameda Ta'amu will be relied on to plug things in the middle. (Drew Sellers/Sports Press Northwest)

Jake Locker, Jermaine Kearse, Chris Polk. So on and so on when it comes to the offensive side of the ball for the Huskies.

But what of the defense?

Gone are the two central figures: Donald Butler and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. Cort Dennison has moved into the middle linebacker roll. Everette Thompson is expected to pressure the quarterback, taking Te’o-Nesheim’s sack-producing place.

“I feel more confident with everything,” defensive coordinator Nick Holt said. “We know what to expect with our guys and they know what to expect.”

BYU runs a wide open offense which is unpredictable in general terms. To complicate things further, two different styles of quarterback will be running that offense for the Cougars. Riley Nelson is a running quarterback. Jake Heaps, the former Skyline thrower, is a more traditional quarterback.

“They give you a lot of different formations, a lot of motions,” Holt said. “But what it comes down to is they have a lot of good offensive lineman. They’re big, they’re physical.”

A look at Washington’s defensive units heading into the first game:

Defensive line

Best hope: Alameda Ta’amu has been lauded for the change in his body (he’s dropped about 40 pounds). Holt said he’s a completely different player from a year ago. Washington needs him to plug things up in the middle.

Biggest question: Can either end get to the quarterback? Te’o-Nesheim spent all last season fighting double and triple teams. The Huskies were also able to shift him inside and outside. Those luxuries are gone, leaving all the linemen to fight for themselves. Can any come through?

Linebackers

Best hope: Mason Foster. Foster, named a captain, deflected passes, caused fumbles, basically ran around the field causing multiple issues for offenses last season. He understands the defensive scheme better this season, theoretically allowing him to exploit his best attribute: speed.

Biggest question: Victor Aiyewa, depth. Aiyewa is the new linebacker after being moved from safety. He’s more of a hybrid that Washington will use in coverage and as a rusher off the edge. Aiyewa has often been hurt since arriving at Montlake. His backup is Matt Houston, followed by true freshman Cooper Pelluer who is currently dinged up.

Cornerbacks

Best hope: Desmond Trufant. The younger brother of the Seahawks’ Marcus, Desmond has gained weight and strength since playing as a true freshman last season. Tuesday he jumped a slant and popped the ball in the air. Safety Nate Williams was able to pick it off.

Biggest question: Quinton Richardson. As good as Trufant was on Tuesday, Richardson was that bad. He was burned twice for touchdowns, both coming because of his lack of alertness. Richardson was benched last season after being burned repeatedly. The value of the Huskies’ corners being able to play straight up cannot be overstated. But it looks like Holt will be in the same situation as last season, scheming to help out.

Safeties

Best hope: Nate Williams, Sean Parker. Williams is a senior captain. Parker has looked excellent in practice, especially of late. The true freshman was one of the most touted recruits coming into this season. He appears ready to play the part. He won’t take Williams’ job, though will likely play quite a bit.

Biggest question: Free safety. Right now, Nate Fellner and Will Shamburger will split time there. Each has deficiencies. Fellner is the better tackler, Shamburger is swifter. It seems like Parker will have to find his way onto the field early in the year.

Washington allowed 26.7 points per game on average last season. If that happens again, there will not be more than seven wins.


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