Outwardly, Nate Williams never panicked. He resisted asking questions about the state of the safety position, even though he rarely knew who his running mate would be, week in and week out.
Privately, he often wondered who would be lining up next to him in the last line of defense?
As the 2009 season closed, there were five of them – Greg Walker (one start), Justin Glenn (four), Victor Aiyewa (two), Nate Fellner (three), and Jason Wells (three).
“Almost every week, I was uncertain,” he said. “It would be nice to have that one person there every week. You can learn how they like to move, and how they like to play.”
This season, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Williams is entrenched at strong safety as a senior. Few know the defense better than he does.
What has unfolded is a keen competition at free safety among Fellner, Glenn and Will Shamburger, a surprise from last spring.
And if defensive coordinator Nick Holt or safeties coach Jeff Mills want to shake it up, they could add talented newcomers Sean Parker and Taz Stevenson to the mix as well. The cupboard certainly isn’t bare.
“I’m not blind to the fact that there’s a lot of guys for two spots, but I also told them that it’s a long season,” Mills said. “We’re going to play a lot of guys and stay fresh.”
Shamburger appears to be the slight front-runner to start at free safety. Fellner is right on his heels, and Glenn – after suffering a gruesome broken-leg and ankle injuries at Notre Dame last season – is getting more snaps than possibly first anticipated.
“Sometimes you talk about running back by committee,” Mills said. “It may be like that.”
• Shamburger brings an intimidating element to the position. He’s a ballhawk. He’s also a run-stopping presence at the line of scrimmage. The knee injury that kept him on the sideline last spring is a thing of trhe past.
“He was above what I expected,” Mills said.
• The surprise has been Glenn, who did see some action at the end of spring camp, including a few snaps in the spring game.
He came to Mills right before fall camp to assure him he was ready to go all-out in practice.
“It’s a very pleasant surprise to be back out here and not really thinking about my ankle,” Glenn said. “It’s actually feeling really well. After practice, it is feeling a little sore, but they got top-of-the-line treatment, so every day I come out feeling fresh and feeling good.”
• Parker was one of the blue-chip recruits the Huskies hauled in on national letter-of-intent day in February. He already has been tabbed as the No. 2 strong safety. And after offseason mulling by the coaches, Stevenson was inserted at free safety and not cornerback.
Williams might not get his wish of having the same backfield mate for 12 games. He just hopes the guy who does start is up to the task.
“You have to adjust on the run,” Williams said.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports