Is senior linebacker Princeton Fuimaono overtaking Travis Feeney for a starting spot at outside linebacker? It appears so. I mentioned this morning that Fuiamono was listed above Feeney on a depth chart put together yesterday by Todd Dybas. Well, Adam Jude over at the Times wrote more extensively on the subject. It appears that even if we as writers and fans had Feeney penciled in after his successful 2012 season, the coaches have no such preconceived notions. It appears that the redshirt sophomore may have been set back further than expected by the shoulder injury that forced him to miss all of spring. Feeney entered fall camp healthy, but the steady veteran Fuimaono has apparently played significantly better throughout the last few weeks.
That surprises me. Many people close to the team have gushed about Feeney, and he’s been a chic “most underrated” pick both for those covering the team and for those on the team. Austin Seferian-Jenkins specifically stated that he considers Feeney the most underrated defender on the roster. I was also encouraged by his signficant weight gain, up to around 225 after a 2012 season in which Feeney was fairly undersized at closer to 208.
But if the coaches believe Fuimaono has earned the spot, it’s definitely a positive that they are comfortable unseating a starter. That level of competition is always a plus for a team attempting to build a culture of success after several years of solid but mediocre play. But I still hesitate to consider Feeney the clear-cut number two. Fuimaono has been around for several years and failed to establish himself as the starter back when the competition was not nearly as talented. I understand that he has improved, and that he has always been a solid player, but I think it’s unrealistic to expect him to produce even at the level Feeney produced as a redshirt freshman last season, when he racked up 76 tackles, 4 sacks, and 2 picks.
This could be a wake up call to Feeney if the coaches feel he has shown signs of complacency. It could be a temporary move with the expectation that Feeney will reclaim the starting spot once he’s had more time in camp to regain his previous form. Even if it’s as simple as Fuimaono over Feeney, I would expect more of a platoon, with both players receiving right around the same number of snaps. For what it’s worth, the language that Coach Wilcox used to describe Feeney in Jude’s story seemed surprisingly negative. “He’s got a ways to go,” UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. “He’s got some physical tools (but) there’s a lot of details that he’s got to continue to work on.” To say that your Honorable Mention All-Conference starter has got some physical tools, and that’s the only positive thing you say? That seems telling.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the opener is still around 10 days of practice away. I will be very curious to see who sits at the top of the depth chart at the third linebacker spot come August 31st, and come season’s end.