Washington Looks To Fill Some Big Shoes
Feb. 27, 2013
By Jason Clay
By Jason Clay
Washington in competing with junior college transfer Rodney Mathews and redshirt freshman Dalen Jones for the No. 1 spot atop the depth chart heading into next season. As the Bulldog football team completed their second practice of spring football Wednesday morning, it is too early in the race to see if one player has separated himself from the others.
However, with one season under his belt in this system, Washington is ready to make an impression on the coaching staff this spring.
"I'm very physical, I'll go toe-to-toe with the best of them," Washington said. "I'm fast and just always ready to compete."
The physical part of the game is something that is demanded from the strong safeties in the 3-4 defense run by the Bulldogs. Last year, Thomas led the team with 84 tackles, he had four sacks and tied for fourth in the conference with 12.0 tackles for a loss. Being able to blitz and stick your nose in there on the run game is as vital to the position as the coverage responsibilities are.
Washington's willingness and really enjoyment of the physical part should bode well for him as he works through spring ball looking to earn playing time.
As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Washington was a special teams standout for the Bulldogs as well as being the second-team free safety. He finished third on the team with eight special teams tackles and he also returned a blocked PAT for a two-point conversion in the San Diego State game, showing off his speed on the play.
"I played all four special teams and I knew that was my job that the coaches placed on me," he said about his role last season. "I was the second-string free safety, got limited time there, so I just had to make my plays on special teams."
Washington is happy with the move over from the free to strong safety position this season.
"I feel like strong safety suits me better," Washington said. "It was good to fill in at free safety last year, but coming out of high school I was a strong safety.
"Being a free safety last year, it's pretty different. You have to play more half of the field. This year at strong safety, I will play some half field, but my main focus is playing in the box."
Washington said he was able to learn a lot from Thomas last season - both on the field and in film study. Derron Smith, Fresno State's first-team All-Mountain West free safety, was and continues to be a big asset for Washington to lean on.
He now looks to use that knowledge to help him execute out on the field playing with a veteran secondary that ranked second nationally in 2012 in pass defense and third in interceptions with 22.
"I feel like I can improve on a lot of things," Washington said. "Just getting a better mental aspect of the game when I'm out on the field.
"Just focus on everything - take-aways, be physical and fast. We lost Phillip, but we still have Sean Alston returning, L.J. Jones and Derron Smith, who was top five in the NCAA for interceptions, so we have some good returning players and I feel like we'll do [just as well this year] if not better."
Fresno State returns its two starting corners in Alston and Jones along with Smith at free safety. New to the program is secondary coach David Brown and he has liked what he's seen from the secondary thus far.
"They are definitely an athletic group, they work hard and having a lot of experience coming back makes it a lot easier for a new coach," said Brown, who was recently hired by to fill the void left by Tim McDonald's departure to the New York Jets. "Having some of the younger guys we're looking at bringing them along, but having some of the veteran guys in there definitely helps. They're an athletic group and I'm looking forward to working with them."
The players are excited to have their new coach in there working with them alongside Jordan Peterson, Fresno State's other secondary coach, as they look to build chemistry as a unit.
"Coach Brown is always there to push me and correct me," Washington said. "He's only been here a few days, but he's going to be a good coach for us and will continue to push us."
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