The defense is is made up of a lot more than just the first string. Depth is crucial to building a solid unit.
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is preparing his players by giving them a lot of reps. That's the beauty of spring ball.
"There's a lot of guys getting a lot of reps because of the way we're structured now, which is great," Wilcox said. "The more reps you can get in a game-like situation or these team periods is invaluable."
Through the competitive situations the guys are being put in, the coaches are identifying places on the team where they need to continue to develop and find depth, and also get guys to step up to fill roles on the defense.
During the two-week break, Wilcox was able to identify some of those areas they will continue to develop during the rest of spring ball and into the season.
"Up front, we're not a real big front right now, so we got to really hone in on some of the technical things," Wilcox said. "We need some guys to step forward, some of those younger freshmen, sophomore guys, to see if we can because we're going to be counting on some of them to play, especially against all these technical teams. We need to develop some depth so we can roll people."
By defending against the up-tempo offense, Wilcox has been able to see where their weaknesses pop up. They know that they've struggled defending against the fast-paced, spread offense.
This makes depth all the more important.
"In this day and age, with these tempo teams, you've got to have some depth and roll some guys, so no matter what, that's imperative," Wilcox said. "You can't play the game with just 11 people."
Wilcox and the rest of the coaching staff will continue to find depth on the defensive front so they can keep up with the up-tempo offenses they'll no doubt find in the Pac-12 this upcoming season.
Here are some quick hits of Wilcox assessing players and positions after last Thursday's practice:
Of the linebacker position, Wilcox said: "The linebacker position, obviously Shaq (Thompson) and Johnny (Timu) have played a lot, Princeton (Fuimaono) has played a lot, Travis (Feeney) is obviously out right now, but there's a lot of guys getting some good reps, and I think those guys have continued to improve. Shaq especially, Johnny Timu having a real, real good understanding of what we're doing."
Wilcox continued with the secondary, which he said has been, and will continue to be, competitive: "Then on the back end, (safety) Sean Parker has played a lot, but he's continued to develop his game, (cornerback) Marcus Peters is a guy we need to take the next step, who's got some ability and played some good football for us at times last year, and then the other secondary spot is really wide open, and a lot of guys getting good reps, so that will continue to be very competitive."
Losing cornerback Desmond Trufant to graduation, and then most likely to the NFL, will be a big hit to the defense. As players begin to step up and fill that role, Wilcox isn't looking for an exact personality replica of Trufant. Rather, he's looking for the focus and athleticism Trufant demonstrated during his time at Washington.
"As long as they're competing and we're playing the right way and not overboard about how we act, then I'm not going to make a guy act a certain way," Wilcox said. "As long as he's in the framework of being a team guy, we're not building robots. We're trying to get guys to play good football."
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