SEATTLE – Entering just his second year at the University of Washington, sophomore starting linebacker John Timu sounded a bit like a wise, old sage earlier this week.
“Opportunity is a big word,” he said. “Guys have to step up.”
For a few UW players, the window of opportunity has opened wide because of unforeseen circumstances. While transfers, retirement and injury have depleted the Huskies of some key players, the chance for playing time has invigorated some of those left behind.
“In a situation like this, when people go down, certain guys step up,” said linebacker Scott Lawyer, a redshirt freshman linebacker who has worked with the first team this week.
Since the end of last season, the Huskies have lost backup quarterback Nick Montana to transfer, starting guard Colin Porter to career-ending shoulder injuries, running back Deontae Cooper to another knee injury and linebacker Garret Gilliland, who decided to quit playing football. Injuries to many other players have cost UW more bodies this week, although all of them are expected back when the season begins.
Among the players who could end up benefitting from some of the missing practice players:
LB Travis Feeney: The latest of four safeties to move to linebacker this offseason, Feeney saw some immediate action with the first team following the injuries to Fellner and Tutogi. He’s tall but lean, with unexpected pop.
LB Scott Lawyer: Another redshirt who’s hoping to make more of an impact this season, Lawyer has been running with the first team at strongside linebacker. The 6-foot-2, 223-pound plugger played defensive end in high school, and he has versatility on his side.
G James Atoe: Formerly a tackle, Atoe has moved inside to fill Erik Kohler’s role at right guard. Kohler has struggled with injuries for much of his college career, and left guard Colin Tanigawa is coming off knee surgery, so there could be an opportunity for Atoe.
RB Erich Wilson II: The freshman became UW’s No. 3 tailback when Cooper went down with another injury last week. True freshman running backs like Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey (Gonzaga Prep) have also found ways to get onto the field in recent years.
QB Cyler Miles: It’s way too early to handicap the race for the job of Keith Price’s primary backup, but Miles has certainly made an impression. After Montana’s transfer, the job was out there for the taking, and redshirt freshman Derrick Brown did little in the spring to put a stranglehold on it.
WR Jaydon Mickens: The true freshman has been making plays all camp, and a recent wrist injury to James Johnson, a projected starter, will only help his push for playing time.