'Mr. Consistent'

Commentary: Linebacker Will Herring has evolved into reliable cog for Hawks

January 14, 2011 

RENTON - Please allow the Seahawks' Will Herring to provide an example of a linebacker's mentality.

You ask about the cast on his left arm: “Just a little wrist fracture,” he says.

To one of the big arm bones or one of the little wrist bones? “I don’t know.”

What’s the treatment regimen for that? “You just cast it up and go with it.”

What happened? “I think a knee landed on me, but I’m not sure. I just thought it was sprained a little.”

Which play? What part of the game? “I believe it was on a kickoff; I don’t remember which one.”

It seems as if most players would tend to recall how they broke a wrist. And when it happens to a quarterback or receiver, it’s headline news.

When it’s a linebacker’s wrist? As he says, you just cast it up and go with it.

Of course, Herring might take that approach to just about any injury at this point.

Now in his fourth season with the Seahawks, Herring has played an ever-increasing role, going from a special teams standout and reserve linebacker to a player who is getting more snaps from scrimmage and making impact plays as a result.

He’s had 14 tackles in the past three games he’s played, with an interception and a forced fumble. He can be trusted at any of the linebacker positions, and is among the most reliable players on coverage units.

“He’s been very productive, very active,” coach Pete Carroll said of Herring. “Not just on defense and in sub packages, but also on special teams … he’s been a big factor.”

Fellow linebacker David Hawthorne has a nickname for Herring: Mr. Consistent.

“That’s because you know that every time you’re going to get Will Herring at his best,” Hawthorne said, “and he’s going to be prepared for every situation. He’s always ready to step in (because) he puts in the extra time it takes to know his role on the defense. He’s very well-respected on this team.”

Fittingly, he plays the “Will” linebacker, which means he generally lines up against the weak side (away from the tight end) of the opponent’s formation. But he also makes certain to know the strong-side (“Sam”) and middle-linebacker (“Mike”) responsibilities.

Sam or Mike, Lofa or “Heater,” Herring basically needs to know all linebacker positions, the pass-defense packages, as well as all special teams duties.

Isn’t that a lot? “No … it’s football … it’s not rocket science,” he said.

We may note that he was a National Honor Society scholar in high school and at Auburn. “You just have to put in the time to know and understand your defense, what is being called, and what (the opponent) likes to do with matchups so you can anticipate during the game.”

Herring has put in his time as a trusted understudy, making him one of those deserving backups earning more playing time under Carroll’s meritocracy.

“I’ve been around a while,” Herring said of his increased exposure. “Mainly it’s a matter of being ready for the opportunity. They started using me more lately and I feel I’ve been prepared and ready to make some plays.”

Herring came out of Auburn as a bit of a hybrid, having played 52 college games as a big safety or lean linebacker.

As a result, the coverage skills and understanding of the passing game he developed have helped him turn into a valuable pass defender from the linebacker spot.

And now, Carroll thinks Herring’s Auburn connection could have him particularly inspired this week as the team heads to Chicago to take on the Bears on Sunday in a second-round playoff game.

Herring and fellow Auburn alum Ben Obomanu flew down to Phoenix after Monday’s Seahawks obligations and arrived just in time for the kickoff of Auburn’s BCS title game against Oregon. Oregon product Walter Thurmond went, too, but was not as inspired by the final result.

“It was unbelievable to see those guys win it all,” Herring said. “They’d been down so many times and always kept their heads up. They just kept pressing on.”

That’s pretty much what Carroll keeps asking of Herring the Seahawks.

“He happens to be particularly fired up after the game the other night,” Carroll said of Herring. “So we’re going to get him at his very best.”

But, really, that’s what you come to expect out of somebody they call Mr. Consistent.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com

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