Five of Louisiana State University’s passing plays went for 10 yards or longer Saturday. That might not seem unusual, but it was enough to crank up the lineup carousel in the University of Washington secondary.
Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian declared Monday “a little shake-up” in the defensive backfield, shifting two players to different positions and leaving the No. 1 positions on the depth chart unsettled.
Free safety Greg Walker, who made his first start Saturday, wasn’t entirely to blame for the Tigers’ two long scoring passes to receiver Terrance Toliver – the first a 45-yarder late in the first half and the other a 39-yarder in the third quarter of the No. 11 Tigers’ 31-23 win.
Walker, the cover man on both plays, missed open-field tackles that allowed Toliver to wiggle free for the touchdowns.
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The third-quarter play, which gave LSU a 24-13 lead, was Walker’s last after he came up limping. Sarkisian later said the sophomore had a leg cramp.
But the first-year coach acknowledged Monday that Walker’s replacement – junior Victor Aiyewa – and Nate Williams played well together as the safety tandem in the fourth quarter. Williams moved into Walker’s position, and Aiyewa played strong safety.
“The assumption is, Greg Walker missed a couple tackles, and Victor went in and saved the day – which is somewhat true,” Sarkisian said. “They were tough tackles in open space, with nobody around him. We’ve got to continue to work our open-field tackling, not just Greg, but as a football team.”
Aiyewa, who missed more than a week of training camp with a mild concussion, was impressive against LSU. He had five tackles, two pass breakups and helped force running back Charles Scott to fumble for a second-quarter turnover.
“The coaches kind of have their own (plan) on the way they want to attack,” Aiyewa said. “I just … go with the flow. When coach says, ‘Go,’ I go and try and make a play.”
Walker is still in the mix, something he earned in preseason camp. But cornerback Justin Glenn, a redshirt freshman from Mukilteo, is being moved to free safety because of his tackling. He took snaps with the No. 1 defense in the hour-long afternoon practice Monday at the UW’s Dempsey Center indoor facility.
Also, junior-college transfer David Batts settled in at his long-term position – cornerback – giving the Huskies three players (Batts, Quinton Richardson and Desmond Trufant) who are at least 6-foot tall to match up with big receivers around the Pacific-10 Conference.
What does it mean? Williams is likely to play both safety positions. Walker and Aiyewa will see the majority of plays paired with Williams, at least until Glenn is more prepared.
Moving Glenn should open more opportunities for Trufant, who had a solo tackle among his two plays with the defense Saturday. Sarkisian has praised his athleticism and coverage instincts since the freshman took the field for fall camp Aug. 20.
“(Trufant) will get more chances as we move forward,” Sarkisian said.
Defensive end Darrion Jones, who was injured in the first quarter, suffered a bruised knee and sprained ankle. He did not practice Monday and is day-to-day. Linebacker Matt Houston (arm) returned to drills after a two-week layoff and joined the second team. … Sarkisian reported no other major injuries from the game.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442