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April 21, 2012

Fellner switches to linebacker for Huskies

Fortunately, the Washington Huskies wore some sort of padding. Friday's practice included a lot of hard hits, even though tackling was not a part of the practice.

The Huskies were in half-pads and helmets, shoulder pads and shorts in preparation for Saturday's controlled scrimmage at Seattle Memorial Stadium.

Linebacker Cooper Pelluer left with a shoulder injury and wide receiver Josh Perkins sat on the sidelines for a while after a hit from safety Will Shamburger. Wide receiver James Johnson and defensive tackle Lawrence Lagafuaina left with minor injuries, and safety Taz Stevenson sat out as he was officially described as "under the weather." Defensive end Talia Crichton and center Drew Schaefer still remain out from injuries sustained last week.

Even so, the defense is beginning to respond to defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and the coaching staff. In the concluding part of practice, the 11-on-11 sessions, the first series ended with cornerback Desmond Trufant tipping quarterback Keith Price's pass into defensive end Andrew Hudson's hands for an interception.

Wilcox has been reorganizing the defense to create such effectiveness, such as moving safety Nate Fellner to linebacker.

"It's more of getting the best guys on the field, and then fitting them into spots where we think they can be the most successful. And that's what we did moving Nate down," Wilcox said.

Wilcox added that because of Fellner's size, skill set and experience, he's a perfect match to the strongside linebacker role.

As for the other two spots, it's up in the air. With all the shifts at linebacker, the starters remain undefined. Wilcox is figuring out which combinations of John Timu, Thomas Tutogi and Princeton Fuimaono will work best.

"I wouldn't be ready to say this person has done this to deserve a starting spot right now," Wilcox said. "I think John Timu has had a couple good weeks but I wouldn't pencil anyone in, that's for sure."

The secondary remains a consistent strength throughout spring ball, because of the experienced cornerbacks and especially at safety.

"All of those guys have done a nice job really working to learn and coach (Keith) Heyward has done a great job with them, teaching them," Wilcox said. "And I think Sean Parker is a guy who has kind of taken that next step and Justin Glenn has been awesome the way he prepares and practices and how hard he plays, attention to detail."

On offense, the depth chart at running back is becoming more defined as running backs coach Joel Thomas provided a status update. At the moment, tailbacks Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey appear to be locked together at the top of the depth chart.

"What I see with reps, Bishop is starting to become a stronger, more confident tailback. Jesse, like I said, he brings the wily veteran leadership to the group. He's a guy that's taken a lot of reps; he knows what is going on and the little details and everything," Thomas said. "Right now between those two, those would be the guys that would be 1A and 1B and I'll let you guys decide that is at that point between the two."

The intense competition for between the two players is fueled by the opportunity to become the feature back come September.

"They are serious about taking the job over," Thomas said. "One of them is going to do it, and it may be a 55-45 deal, 60-40, I don't know, I don't have a crystal ball until we get to next season."

Further down the chart, Dezden Petty and Antavius Sims have made lasting impressions with their running style and aptitude of the game. And Deontae Cooper is slowly rehabilitating back onto the field.

"But from what I can see, (Cooper) looks good running," Thomas said. "We'll see in August when he gets going."


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