University of Washington

At UW, LBs = speed

When a guy fast enough to play in the secondary shifts to the linebacking corps, there's likely going to be an improvement in the defense's speed.

That’s one of the things that the Washington Huskies seem to have accomplished by moving former safety Victor Aiyewa to strongside linebacker, where he is running alongside starters Mason Foster on the weak side and Cort Dennison in the middle.

“That’s the No. 1 thing that we’re banking on right now: our speed at defense,” Aiyewa said Thursday after the Huskies finished their fourth day of fall camp. “Especially at linebacker; we just have a lot of guys who can just run. You’ve got me and Mason and Cort, who can run. That just makes the whole defense a little bit faster.”

He added that his No. 1 adjustment so far is more mental than physical.

“Just learning the plays from a different perspective,” he said. “A lot of stuff I know from safety, but when you get a little bit closer to the ball, everything that you’re learning actually happens a lot faster.”

Aiyewa is listed at 6-foot-1 and 219 pounds – solid for a safety, but 23 pounds lighter than Foster and 17 lighter than Dennison.

Aiyewa said he’s a smart eater, who is able to adjust his weight. But for now, he says his coaches haven’t asked him to gain any.

Linebacker coach Mike Cox said once Aiyewa masters the playbook, then his top issue might become the added pounding he’ll get at his new position.

“He’s got to be a physical player down after down after down,” Cox said. “And when you’re a safety or a DB, sometimes it’s big contact and then you have a couple of plays where you’re covering and so forth. But when you’re a linebacker, it’s a physical game. He’s got to develop that mentality of an every-down physical linebacker. But he’s doing it so far.”

Aiyewa, coming out of Hightower High School in Fresno, Texas, was rated by Scout.com as the No. 89 safety recruit in the nation.

He was one of seven true freshmen to see action in 2007, playing in all 13 games on special teams. Over his first three seasons he has appeared in 29 games, and has been in on 43 tackles, 30 unassisted.

He has been hampered by shoulder problems, but said he’s healthy as he looks forward to his final season in purple.

“It’s fun,” he said. “I’m having a good time learning the position and just trying to get acclimated to the position. But I think it’s a great move for me.”

EXTRA POINTS

The Huskies move to full pads today for the first time. However, coach Steve Sarkisian maintains the change shouldn’t be dramatic. “We’re going to see guys play football,” he said. “(But) to me, whether we’re in full pads or half pads, we’re playing football at a pretty good tempo and a pretty high intensity. ... Sarkisian said he has scheduled two full-scale scrimmages: Tuesday and Aug. 21. ... Tight end Evan Hudson suffered a sprained shoulder on Wednesday and is expected to miss about a week. ... Tailback Chris Polk was shaken up a bit, so the staff used the opportunity to give extra work to Johri Fogerson, Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier. “I kind of wanted to see those other guys run the ball,” Sarkisian said. “I wanted to see … Johri and Coop and Jesse run the ball when it was getting hot in the kitchen.” There were a couple of minor skirmishes Thursday. However, Sarkisian said he was encouraged that the players police their teammates without coaches getting involved, and that the players involved sought each other out afterward to exchange apologies and move on. … In the race for fourth wide receiver, Sarkisian said he is pleased with “a lot of players,” but the first he mentioned was D’Andre Goodwin. Then he went on to mention Jordan Polk (who dropped one early in practice but bounced back), Kevin Smith and DiAndre Campbell, who caught a deep ball from Nick Montana. … Jake Locker has been named quarterback of the Playboy preseason All-America team. “That’s a pretty good honor, lifetime-achievement award,” Sarkisian said. “He’s got that one forever. To me, it’s like all those other preseason All-American things that are out there, and that’s just one of them. But I think for us and for everyone involved, I hope he’s the post-season All-American quarterback. That one is a little more important.”

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports

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