April 23, 2009
By Scott Eisen
Mason Foster led the Huskies in tackles last season, but even though he's already played at an elite level, the new UW football coaching staff has noted his improvement throughout spring practice.
"He's one of the guys that has really improved and kind of sticks out," said defensive coordinator Nick Holt about the junior linebacker. "He's just been really productive these last couple days of practice."
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Football coaches believe that if he can bulk up a little more during the offseason, Foster will have the body to accompany his skill to take on the tight end nearly every play and keep the running game in check.
His position change has been smooth, though, and he has done an outstanding job in practice putting pressure on the quarterback and wreaking havoc wherever the ball goes. Head coach Steve Sarkisian has been high on Foster, especially in recent practices.
"Mason has really found a comfort level, especially coming off the edge when he's pass-rushing," Sarkisian said. "But he's also doing a great job in the run-game. He's a talented kid -- great physique -- he can really run around, and now I think he's really starting to play like the guy that he looks like."
Foster has noticed improvement in his own game during spring practice, especially in understanding how to use his hands on pass rushes.
"It's been a little adjustment," Foster said. "But it's something you have to work at, and these last couple of days, it feels like it's starting to click more."
The linebacker gives a lot of credit to the new coaching staff, not just for the improvement he's seen in himself, but in the defense as a whole. He attributes it to a new attitude reflected in Holt's passion on the field during practices.
"[Holt's] personality and the energy he brings to the team definitely wears off on everybody," Foster said. "It seems like Donald Butler and E.J. [Savannah] and all of us are starting to play faster, you know, taking on his personality."
For Holt, Foster's team-leading 105 tackles last season -- nearly 30 more than anyone else on the team -- is indicative of a potential breakout season for the Seaside, Calif., native. With improvement, Holt believes the NFL may be in Foster's future.
"If he keeps progressing, I think there's no question [that he is NFL material]," Holt said. "He's got to progress and keep on getting stronger in the weight room, and that will enable him to get faster."
As a junior, thoughts of football beyond college aren't at the front of Foster's mind right now. His goals for the coming year aren't self-oriented, either. He is concerned with one thing: winning.
"My main focus is to help the team get better," he said. "Just do what I can to win."