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Previewing the stout Husky defense

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Yeah, they’re good

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Although the Husky offense has improved this season, it’s still the defense that leads this team. This is a group coming off of racking up eight sacks to the Stanford Cardinal. Is now a good time to mention that in David Shaw tenure at Stanford, the most sacks they’ve given up in a game was four? What’s scariest about this defense is that despite the fact that they’ve blitzed the least in the conference they still lead the way in sacks. The young offensive line will have their work cut out for them in this one. Look for the Ducks to employ lots of screen passes, chop blocks, and quick runs to keep the Husky pressure at bay.

The leader:

The Huskies run with co-defensive coordinators. First up is the official “coordinator” in Pete Kwiatkowsi. He enters his fourth season as the Huskies coordinator and has seen solid improvement in each of those years. In his tenure, he has seen draft picks like Danny Shelton and Shaq Thompson go on to the NFL. Along with Kwiatkowsi is the “co-coordinator” Jimmy Lake. Lake was recently promoted to co-coordinator in December of last year. Lake is also the defensive backs coach and can take success for NFL player Marcus Peters.

Stats:

Bringing a base 4-3 defense, the Huskies are able to get after the quarterback without bringing a whole lot of pressure from the outside. That being said, the UW defensive ends are very athletic and can get out in pass coverage allowing the team to send different zone blitzes where a linebacker will rush and a defensive linemen will drop into coverage. Through the first five games of the season, the Huskies have piled up 21 sacks, yes that is pretty hard to believe even with the eight sacks against the Cardinal.

Albeit that the Huskies haven’t played the best competition in the world, but the defense is still giving up just 12.8 points per game. The passing game has been more impressive as they’ve given up just 177 yards per game this season. The running defense has still been good with their 122.2 per game. But, if I’m a Ducks coach looking at those numbers I say that we push the tempo as much as possible and continue to run the ball through multiple different runners, formations, and angles. Talking yesterday about the Husky offense on third down conversions, the defense has been phenomenal. Through the first five games of the season, opponents of the Huskies are able to convert just 30% of the time. This is a huge key for the Ducks if they want to pull this one out.

Last year the Ducks used the passing attack of Vernon Adams Jr. to pull out the victory in Seattle. Adams accounted for 272 yards and two touchdowns and zero interceptions in the victory. Royce Freeman still averaged 5.1 yards per carry, but other than that the Ducks did struggle getting things going on the ground as they wound up with 170 yards on 51 carries (so much for my game plan of keeping it on the ground). The biggest difference last year was Vernon’s elusiveness in the pocket. So many times he was able to extend the play when the Husky defense got pressure on him. Whoever the quarterback is Saturday (and if I get to pick sides, yes I’m going with Herbert) needs to be nimble on their feet and make a conscious effort to extend the play.

Three players to watch:

Azeem Victor, #36, junior linebacker, 6' 3", 230 lbs.

So many good players on this Husky defense, yet Victor leads the group in tackles by 12. Only one tackle for loss, but the linebacker is a stopgap and a sure tackler at the next level. Let’s not overlook his one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Budda Baker, #32, junior safety, 5' 10", 192 lbs.

The difference that this kid could be making in the Oregon secondary right now is clearly being seen. Although he doesn’t have an interception yet this season, the safety is third on the team in tackles. It’s also impressive that from the safety position he has 2.5 tackles for loss along with .5 sack.

Kieshawn Bierra #7, junior linebacker, 6’ 1”, 221 lbs.

Boy there were a lot of players to pick as the third player to watch from this Husky defense. I was close to picking sack leader (4.5) Psalm Wooching as the guy but he had his stats padded thanks to his 3-sack game against the Cardinal. But instead I go with the guy who has four, yes four, fumble recoveries on the season. Bierra also is second on the team in tackles behind Victor.