Aug. 14, 2007
SEATTLE, Wash. -- On the Husky offensive side of the ball, Coach Tyrone Willingham and his staff are putting the leadership in the hands of sophomore Jake Locker. Getting lost in the shuffle is the fact that on the other side of the ball, Locker's classmate Donald Butler is being asked to be the quarterback of the defense.
Entering the 2007 Fall Camp, many pundits and prognosticators have indicated that the linebacker position is one of the team's strengths. Thanks to depth and a long line of skilled athletes, the position looks to be in good hands.
A lot of that confidence can be attributed to the development of Butler. Butler, who got his first taste of game action as a true freshman in 10 games last year, will be counted on to plug the middle for the defense. Despite his youth and minimal experience under his belt, linebacker coach Chris Tormey remains optimistic of Butler's ability to quarterback the defense.
"Physically, Donald has a lot of potential," says Tormey. "He has size, speed, athletic ability, and the ability to change direction in tight spaces. Plus, he has the intelligence to go with it, giving him a great combination of attributes for a linebacker."
Butler, from Del Campo High School in Sacramento, Calif., seems up for the task, but you'll have to excuse him for being in awe of the responsibility he has been handed.
"It's crazy," says Butler when asked to think what it will be like to be the on field voice of the defense. "I got in some last year and that alone was crazy. Now that I will be in essence the leader of the defense, that is a big thing.
"I take that with a lot of humbleness and respect--and by respect I mean for the game and for the other Huskies that have played the middle linebacker before me. My guys are looking to me to be their leader, so I'm excited and ready for things to get started."
Butler will not have to shoulder the load of leadership in the linebacker position alone. Right next to him will another vocal leader in senior Dan Howell.
"Having Dan out there definitely makes it a lot easier," says Butler. "We have a lot of similarities both on and off the field. We both like to get after it and hit, and that's what helps make us a great linebacking corp."
Besides the daunting task of running the defense, Butler and his Husky teammates will face some stiff challenges from some of the top competition in the country. Even with the prospect of facing no less than four pre-season Heisman Trophy candidates, Butler is ready for all comers.
"I think its a privilege that we get to play some of the top tier schools in the nation," says Butler. "Ohio State, USC, Boise State and all the other schools that went to bowl game--but you know what, I'm ready to get after it. Let's go."
Butler will have to wait until Friday, Aug. 31 to get after it against Syracuse. Once he gets unleashed, all indications are that the Husky defense is in good hands.