We’ll continue the countdown with a player whose progress looms as pivotal as just about any to the team’s success this season, true sophomore defensive tackle Danny Shelton.
And it’s that projected role on the team that has him rated as highly on this list as he is.
Going solely off of last year’s stats, Shelton wouldn’t rank where I’ve got him as he had 11 tackles, two pass deflections and one fumble recovery in 13 games and one start, that coming in the Apple Cup (though it should be acknowledged that he plays a position at which stats rarely tell the whole story).
But with Alameda Ta’amu off to the NFL, Shelton now steps into a key starting role, one that may only be enhanced with the change in defensive coordinators and the switch to more 3-4 looks. If Shelton can clog up the middle of line, it will go a long way toward making the rest of the defense a success.
Shelton gave indications late last season when he played, and then throughout the spring, that he may be up to the task. He had five tackles in the Alamo Bowl when he saw some of his most significant playing time, and he ran with the starting unit throughout the spring.
That he’d be able to make a quick impression wasn’t a surprise after he signed with UW as one of the more sought-after recruits in the Class of 2011 — he was rated the No. 10 defensive tackle in the country by Rivals.com, to mention one honor.
Now, with a year of college under his belt, he’ll be asked to do more. He said in the spring he felt much more comfortable, having lost roughly 20 pounds to play at about 315 (and as the linked story mentions, he also played his freshman year having to deal with the emotions of the death of his brother the previous spring).
The regular starting spring line of Shelton at nose/defensive tackle, Andrew Hudson at tackle and end and Josh Shirley at end will be augmented this fall by the return of Hau’oli Jamora, as well as the continued progress of some other young players such as end Corey Waller, and the addition of newcomers such as JC DT Josh Banks and DE Pio Vatuvei.
UW fans have been through more than a few false starts in recent years when it comes to hearing about the defensive line finally coming around. But on paper, this has the makings of one of UW’s better defensive fronts in a while, with Shelton right in the middle of it all.
No. 5 — DE Josh Shirley
No. 6 — WR Kasen Williams
No. 7 — SS Sean Parker
No. 8 — C Drew Schaefer
No. 9 — DE Hau’oli Jamora
No. 10 — FS Justin Glenn