August 19, 2008

Spotlight: Safeties

The additions of class of 2007 safeties Nate Williams and Victor Aiyewa allowed the Huskies to make drastic changes in the secondary. They provided instant depth and along with Jason Wells and Darin Harris, gives them a group of hard hitting athletes eager to turn around the Huskies woes.

Jason Wells
LaVerne, CA (Bonita HS / Mt. San Antonio College)
6-foot-2, 210-pound, Senior
2007 STATS: 24 tackles, 1 interceptions, 1 pass deflection

Wells began his career at Mt. San Antonio Community College in 2005 before making his way to Montlake. In his first season with the Huskies Wells played in nine games recording 42 tackles and three pass deflections. Last season began very well for Wells as he started the first five games and had a huge impact. He averaged nearly five tackles per game, pulled down an interception and had a pass deflection before a knee injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Against USC, the game he was hurt, Wells had seven tackles, including a tackle for a loss. His presence was missed last season, and he is still bothered by the injury this fall. However, if he is unable to go early on, the impact will be much less this season because of the young talent behind him.

Wells was expected to start this season but has progressed slower then expected from knee surgery. Up to this point he has been unable to go full speed and some of the younger players have really impressed in his absence. When healthy he will play a major role in the Husky defense and no matter how well the other safeties play you will see number 26 on the field.

Nate Williams
Burien, WA (Kennedy HS)
6-foot-1, 205-pound, True Sophomore
2007 STATS: 32 tackles, 5 pass deflection, 1 forced fumble

Nate was a local standout Keenedy High School where he earned state player of the year honors in 2006 for 3A. He had a major impact on the Huskies as a true freshman; starting one game and playing the nickel back most of the season. He earned the Travis Spring Most Outstanding Freshman Award for defense for his play. He was originally recruited at running back after putting up monster numbers in high school. He rushed for 4,775 yards and 92 touchdowns during his career and was just as good of a safety. Once on campus the coaches loved his size and physicality and moved him to safety almost immediately.

Williams has all of the tools to be a stand out safety in the Pac-10. Right out of the gates he was impressive and will only got better. With Wells not a 100 percent, it's hard to imagine Williams not starting the opening game. Combined with Victor Aiyewa the secondary of the Huskies should be good for years to come.

Victor Aiyewa
Huntington Beach, CA (Edison HS)
6-foot-1, 217-pound, True Sophomore
2007 STATS: 8 tackles

Aiyewa saw action in all 13 games as a true freshman on special teams. Out of high school Aiyewa was an unknown commodity, playing his first season of football in 2006. Making things worse, he moved around to multiple high schools in his two-year high school career. However, he eventually settled at Hightower High School for his senior season where he earned All-District honors. Aiyewa hauled in five interceptions that season and earned a reputation as one of the biggest hitters in Texas. That reputation has carried over to the Huskies and he should be an enforcer in the secondary for seasons to come. Recruiting heated up for Aiyewa late in the season and the unknown safety prospect ended up choosing Washington over eventual offers from UAB, Arizona State, Baylor, and Tulane.

Aiyewa is an animal! He is the hardest hitter on the roster and you can count on some highlight reel collisions before his career is over. He hits so hard in fact, the coaching staff has to constantly remind him to tone down out of fear of injuring his offensive teammates. Aiyewa will see significant playing time this season in the secondary if he remains healthy. He's been nagged by injuries this fall but is expected at 100 percent for Oregon.

Darin Harris
Federal Way, WA (Decatur HS)
5-foot-11, 200-pound, Redshirt Senior
2007 STATS: 73 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass deflection

Harris played in 21 games his first two seasons on Montlake, mainly at corner and special teams. He redshirted in 2006 before breaking onto the scene last season as a junior. He finished the season fourth on the team with 73 tackles, an amazing stat considering he didn't see much playing time and didn't record a tackle in the first four games. Injuries forced him into service and he made the most of the playing time. He was named the KING-TV Most Improved Player on defense and actually finished 18th in the Pac-10 in tackles. A local product from Decatur High School, Harris earned first team 4A all-state defensive back as a senior and was also a standout quarterback. He was considered the No. 44 rated "athlete" in the nation and chose Washington over offers from Colorado and Oregon State.

Harris earned playing time in 2008 with his play last season. Coach J.D. Williams really likes Harris at the Nickel Back, and if the rest of the safeties remain healthy that is where you could see him most. Either way he will see the field and because of his ability to play both safety and corner it could be quit a lot.

Tripper Johnson
Bellevue, WA (Newport HS)
6-foot-1, 210-pound, Junior
2007 STATS:2 tackles

Johnson is a very good story. He was drafted No. 32 overall by Baltimore in the 2000 MLB draft and singed a reported $1.5 million bonus. He played seven seasons total, six with Baltimore and last season with the Pirates. Johnson only made it to AA where he played for a couple of seasons with the Orioles and last season he played in high A ball with the Pirates. Now he's 26 years old and has two seasons of eligibility left for the Huskies. He was a local product out of Newport high school were he earned first team All-KingCo 3A Conference defensive back and second team as a running back as a senior in 1999. He was The Seattle Times Eastside Male Athlete of the Year as a senior after being named All-KingCo in football, basketball and baseball. He had offers in football from UW and WSU before choosing professional baseball.

It might seem crazy, but Johnson should see the field in some capacity this season. He could be a standout on special teams and has also shown swagger at defensive back. Another crazy thought is Johnson returning kicks! Right now the coaching staff has him fielding kick-offs, but I wouldn't expect it come game time.

Greg Walker
Bellflower, CA (St. Bernard HS)
5-foot-11, 200-pound, True Freshman
2007 HIGH SCHOOL STATS: 120 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 interceptions

Walker was a high school running back and linebacker who made the move to safety when he got to campus. He earned all-league, all-area and All-CIF as a senior. That season he racked up 120 tackles and five sacks yet went under the radar on the recruiting scene. Walker was an outstanding student who finished with a 4.45 GPA and has a reputation as a smart athlete and hard worker.

With all of the depth in front of him, I can't imagine Walker seeing the field this season. A redshirt season would serve him well.

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