Fall camp begins for the Huskies on Aug. 4, and as we countdown to the start of Chris Petersen’s first season at Washington, we’ll preview each position on Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to the start of camp. (Note: Apologies for the delay on this over the weekend. We’ll be back on track the rest of the week leading up to Sunday’s press conference with Petersen at UW.)
Today: Defensive line
WHO’S GONE: Reserve defensive end Josh Shirley has opted to transfer, and after reportedly earning his undergraduate degree, he’ll be eligible to play immediately for another FBS program for his senior season. It’s remains unclear where he’ll end up. Also, reserve tackles Josh Banks and Sione Potoa’e graduated, reserve nose tackle Lawrence Lagafuaina transferred to Hawaii, and sophomore reserve Connor Cree retired from the sport. Freshman Jaimie Bryant, who spent the final two weeks of spring with the team, has had to retire because of a back injury.
— Hau’oli Kikaha, sr., 6-3, 246. 2013 stats: 70 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles. UW’s defensive MVP after posting 13 sacks, tied for second-most in program history, in 2013 — and all that after missing most of the previous two seasons with two torn ACLs. Named to the preseason watch list for the Bednarik Award for the nation’s top defensive player, and has an outside shot at becoming a first-round pick in the NFL draft next spring. Note: Yes, Kikaha (along with Cory Littleton and Psalm Wooching) is listed officially listed as an outside linebacker on the UW roster now, but we’ll keep him here for now until we see, during fall camp, how much his role will change (the hunch is it won’t change much).
— Cory Littleton, jr., 6-3, 229. 2013 stats: Started all 13 games last season at one defensive end/outside linebacker spot, and figures to be in the running to start this year, too, though, again, it remains to be seen what the more formal shift to a 3-4 defense will mean for this group of guys. I could certainly envision a scenario in which Kikaha and Littleton (and Shaq Thompson and Travis Feeney) are on the field together regularly.
— Psalm Wooching, so., 6-4, 225. Appeared in 13 games last season as a fullback and special-teamer before making the switch to defense this spring.
— Evan Hudson, sr., 6-6, 273. 2013 stats: 21 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 pass break-up. One of team’s pleasant surprises of 2013, Hudson made the switch from tight end to the defensive line and started every game, becoming an invaluable piece because of his versatility.
— Joe Mathis, so., 6-4, 250. 2013 stats: 7 tackles in 12 appearances. After playing sparingly as a true freshman, Mathis should become part of the regular rotation this year.
— Taniela Tupou, jr., 6-1, 281. 2013 stats: 8 tackles in 13 appearances. One of the “breakout” players in spring, Tupou also figures to a key reserve in a versatile role this year.
— Damion Turpin, so., 6-3, 260. 2013 stats: 2 tackles in 4 appearances.
— Danny Shelton, sr., 6-2, 339. 2013 stats: 59 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 3 pass break-ups, 2 blocked kicks. With a solid senior year, Shelton would likely be one of the first tackles selected in next year’s NFL Draft. Named a preseason all-American by Sporting News this summer, and is on the watch list for virtually every major defensive award. Weight listed at 339 pounds on latest UW roster, up about 10 pounds from spring. The one thing coach Chris Petersen noted about Shelton at Pac-12 media days last week: He needs to be on the field more. Not an easy thing for a 339-pounder, but that’s what could separate hi
— Elijah Qualls, rs-fr., 6-1, 311. 2013: Redshirted. Qualls drew praise from Shelton for his work in the spring. He also figures to be a vital reserve this year. Since the spring roster was released, Qualls has gained 18 pounds and, ahem, shrunk an inch.)
— Andrew Hudson, sr, 6-3, 246. 2013 stats: 2 tackles in 8 games. Hudson’s reemerged this spring under the new coaching staff after it was announced late last season that he would be leaving the program. Hudson’s fall on the depth chart was puzzling after he had earned honorable-mention all-Pac-12 honors as a full-time starter in 2012, when he was also named UW’s top defensive lineman.
— Marcus Farria, so., 6-4, 225. 2013 stats: Had 7 tackles, including 2.5 sacks, in 7 games as a true freshman. Farria certainly looks the part of an elite pass-rusher, and he’s flashed that potential at times, too. Needs to be more consistent with his practice habits.
— Jarett Finau, jr., 6-3, 261. 2013 stats: Appeared in 5 games as a sophomore.
— Drew Schultz, sr., 6-2, 266. 2013 stats: 1 tackle in 2 appearances.
— Shane Bowman, fr., 6-3, 247, Bellevue (Bellevue HS)
— Will Dissly, fr., 6-4, 273, Bozeman, Mont. (Bozeman HS)
— Greg Gaines, fr., 6-1, 321, La Habra, Calif. (La Habra HS)
— Kaleb McGary, fr., 6-7, 291, Fife (Fife HS)
— Jaylen Johnson, fr., 6-2, 254, Corona, Calif. (Centennial HS)
(Some big boys!)
There’s a lot to like here. New defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski and new D-line coach Jeff Choate have a lot of experience and a good amount of depth to work with. The starting unit returns intact, and Kikaha is as mature and level-headed as leaders come. As noted here before, the D-line could wind up being the strength of the team. It’s conceivable that two or three of the freshmen could play on the D-line this season, with Gaines perhaps needed most at nose tackle.