University of Washington

Huskies LB Azeem Victor has surgery to repair leg fracture, but expects to return next season

The injury sustained on Saturday by Washington Huskies linebacker Azeem Victory is not as bad as originally believed. But the Huskies still almost certainly must play the rest of the season without him.

Victor, UW’s leading tackler and one of its most important players, fractured his right leg attempting to make a tackle during the Huskies’ 26-13 loss to USC. He tried to hobble off the field, but was eventually put on a medical cart with his right leg supported by an air cast.

He had surgery on Sunday, UW coach Chris Petersen said, noting that he does not expect Victor’s recovery to be “a real long-term thing. It’s a bone, and those things will heal quickly. I don’t know exactly what the timeline is, but it’s probably as good as it could be, in terms of all those things.”

Asked if the injury might heal in time for Victor to play in UW’s bowl game, Petersen said: “I don’t know anything about that. I know he had surgery, so … I don’t know.”

A source with knowledge of the situation said Victor plans to return to UW next season for his fifth and final year of eligibility — confirming a report earlier Monday by The Seattle Times — despite his status as a likely NFL draft pick.

“Really, when it was all said and done, it was actually probably more positive than we were first thinking,” Petersen said. “Sometimes going into surgery and all that, it’s all this other kind of stuff, but it was pretty straightforward from what I understand.”

With Victor sidelined, redshirt freshman DJ Beavers is now listed as the team’s starter at middle linebacker, with freshman Brandon Wellington listed as second-string. The Huskies could also slide sophomore Ben Burr-Kirven over to that position if necessary.

“I think (linebackers coach Bob) Gregory kind of cross-trains all those guys, and it’s been kind of a nice, easy rotation and rhythm for most of the season,” Petersen said. “So now (we’re) kind of down a guy, so that might change a little bit, get all those guys a little bit more playing time. I think we’re still kind of putting that plan together.”

Beavers replaced Victor on Saturday and finished the game with six tackles and a half-tackle for loss. A native of Culver City, California, Beavers has 21 tackles in eight games this season.

Victor is the second UW defensive starter to sustain a season-ending injury. Joe Mathis, the senior outside linebacker who still leads the Huskies in sacks despite playing in only six games, had surgery last week to repair a foot injury that will keep him out the rest of the year. UW’s pass rush has struggled since Mathis’ injury, totaling four sacks in four games without him. It remains to be seen how the Huskies might hold up without Victor, their most imposing, productive defender.

Victor finishes the season with 68 tackles — still tops on the team — including three for loss, plus a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He was an all-conference candidate before his injury, following up an impressive sophomore season in which he led the team with 95 tackles, plus nine tackles for loss.

Early Monday morning, Victor tweeted: “No time to feel discouraged fellas. We knew what kind of fight we were preparing for. We’ve been determined. Now let’s dominate!”

ROSS A SEMIFINALIST FOR NATIONAL AWARD

UW junior receiver John Ross was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the nation’s best receiver.

Ross ranks second nationally in touchdown receptions with 15, and leads UW with 896 receiving yards on 52 catches. He is three touchdown catches shy of the UW single-season record of 18 set by Mario Bailey in 1991.

Ross had eight catches for 154 yards and a touchdown in UW’s loss to USC.

EXTRA POINT

Washington’s regular-season finale at Washington State will air on Fox (Ch. 13). Kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at Martin Stadium.

Christian Caple: 253-597-8437, @ChristianCaple

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