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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

January 21, 2015 at 2:25 PM

Washington Huskies 2015 outlook: Defensive line

Washington's senior defensive line of Evan Hudson, Hau'oli Kikaha, Danny Shelton and Andrew Hudson was dominant in 2014. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

Washington’s senior defensive line of Evan Hudson, Hau’oli Kikaha, Danny Shelton and Andrew Hudson was dominant in 2014. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

A position-by-position analysis of the 2015 Washington Huskies roster before national signing day on Feb. 4. Today: Defensive line. Thursday: Linebackers.

2014 review: It will be a long time, if ever, before we see the kind of production we did from UW’s defensive line this fall. Danny Shelton and Hau’oli Kikaha earned first-team AP All-America honors (joining LB Shaq Thompson as the only UW trio to ever do that together). Kikaha (19.0 sacks, 25 tackles for loss), Shelton (9.0 sacks, 16.5 TFLs) and Andrew Hudson (12.5 sacks, 15.5 TFLs) combined for more sacks than 116 teams. The versatile Evan Hudson rounded out the senior starting lineup and showed significant strides in his second season on defense. The veteran line was tasked with controlling the line of scrimmage and pressuring the quarterback while UW’s young defensive backs grew into their new roles. With rare exception, the line did that each week. I think back to the opener at Hawaii, with the temperature on the field approaching 100 degrees, and UW having to defend 97 plays (tied for the most UW has defended in the past three decades) — and Shelton was on the field for 72 of those. That’s remarkable for a guy who played at more than 340 pounds (and reportedly at more than 360 in the Cactus Bowl). Shelton is now considered the top NFL prospect at the Senior Bowl this week and a potential top-10 pick, and Kikaha is drawing positive reviews in Mobile, Ala., this week, too. Some have him as a potential second- or third-round pick. Replacing all four will be one of UW’s biggest challenges in 2015.

For the record: Kikaha ended his UW career as the school’s career leader in sacks (36.0) and single-season record-holder in sacks (19.0) and tackles for loss (25.0).

Who’s out:

Andrew Hudson, 6-3, 246
Evan Hudson, 6-6, 273
Hau’oli Kikaha, 6-3, 246
Drew Schultz, 6-2, 266
Danny Shelton, 6-2, 339 

Who’s in:

Ricky McCoy*, Roosevelt HS (Fresno, Calif.)
Myles Rice*, 6-4, 225, George Bush HS (Richmond, Texas)
Jason Scrempos*, 6-6, 250, Milpitas HS (Milpitas, Calif.)

Current roster:

Shane Bowman, r-fr., 6-3, 247
Will Dissly, so., 6-4, 273
Jarett Finau, sr., 6-3, 261
Greg Gaines, r-fr., 6-1, 321
Jaylen Johnson, r-fr., 6-2, 254
Joe Mathis, jr., 6-2, 250
Elijah Qualls, so., 6-1, 311
Taniela Tupou, sr., 6-2, 282
Damion Turpin, jr., 6-4, 266
Vita Vea, r-fr., 6-4, 346

2015 outlook: As D-line coach Jeff Choate said last month, things are going to be different with this new wave of linemen. “Instead of getting out of the way (as coaches),” Choate said, “we’re going to be very hands on and have to do a really good job of being specific about what the expectations are with these kids and putting them in position to be successful. But I do think the future’s bright and I think a big part of that is the kids having a chance to have some unbelievable mentors.” Because of the success of UW’s seniors, the Huskies’ backups saw only limited playing time this fall. Elijah Qualls and Joe Mathis did earn more snaps late in the season and both showed flashes of their potential. Those two will be counted on a lot next fall, and veterans Jarett Finau, Taniela Tupou and Damion Turpin should provide some stability, too. … Will Dissly appeared in six games as a true freshman and appears to have the versatility to play multiple positions on the line. … Shane Bowman, Greg Gaines and Jaylen Johnson are intriguing coming off their redshirt season; all three figure to be in the rotation next fall, with Johnson perhaps even slotting in at Buck linebacker. … Vita Vea might be the most intriguing of the freshmen, after Choate said Vea “has more physical talent than Danny does,” which is certainly saying something. “But,” Choate added, “he’s not where Danny’s at in terms of the reps he’s had and really understanding the game Danny does. So that’s the challenge for us as coaches, to push him in that direction.” That challenge extends across the Huskies’ new-look line heading into the spring.



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