We’ll continue our countdown with a player whose injury was one of the more underrated stories of the 2011 season — defensive end Hau’oli Jamora.
It’s not stretching it to say Jamora might have been UW’s best defensive player at the time he was injured early in the Cal game, suffering an ACL injury that knocked him out for the rest of the season.
Jamora (pictured in an Erika Schultz photo) had finished his true freshman season of 2010 on a flourish with three tackles-for-a-loss, including a sack, in the Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska. He then had 15 tackles, three for a loss, in the first three games of the 2011 season, the latter a pace that would have made him the team leader, and the former one that would have left him as the third-leading tackler on the team in 2011.
All of that seems to indicate that maybe Jamora should be higher on the list. The knee injury and what remains a little uncertainty until you see him on the field is the only reason he isn’t.
The good news is that UW coach Steve Sarkisian said at Pac-12 Media Day Tuesday that Jamora appears ready to go.
“Jamora looks great,” he said. “He’s recovering well. He’s under 260 pounds, looks strong, feels like all of the rehab and everything that he’s put into this is paying off for him.”
He cited Jamora again when asked later which players have had good off-seasons.
“I think Hau’oli looks tremendous,” he said of Jamora, who received a redshirt season for last year and has three years of eligibility remaining. “He’s really put himself in the weight room.”
A slight question now will be reintegrating Jamora into the lineup. He sat out the spring while continuing to rehab, a time when Josh Shirley — who took over for Jamora in the lineup last year when Jamora got hurt — established himself even further as a potentially game-changing player.
Sarkisian said at Media Day an early goal of fall camp will be figuring out where everybody fits best.
“It’s going to be a unique situation getting Jamora back,” he said. “Where Josh fits with that. Andrew (Hudson) came on strong the second half of the season for us.”
Sarkisian said that’s where the ability of the defense of new coordinator Justin Wilcox to feature a lot of looks should pay off in allowing for a lot of different alignments that will get all of the players who deserve playing time on the field.
“That’s why the term hybrid is there,” he said. “There will be times when we will look like a 4-3 defense and there will be moments where we look like we have a 3-4 defense in. That’s kudos to Justin Wilcox, putting the guys in the best position to be successful.”
As UW enters camp, it can’t be forgotten that the Huskies are losing two key pieces of the line from last season — starting tackle Alameda Ta’amu and end Everrette Thompson.
But getting Jamora back healthy is essentially returning another starter, if not more than that.