Husky Football: Position Preview – DL

Danny Shelton crushes an Idaho State QB in 2013.

Danny Shelton crushes an Idaho State QB in 2013.

Husky Football: Position Preview – DL

After taking in the UW Open Scrimmage this past weekend, one thing stood out in particular; the Huskies boast a menacing front seven on the defensive side of the ball. Today we are diving deeper in the linemen that anchor the defense. (*Note: Expect players to play multiple positions along the defensive line. The players are listed under the position in which they have the most experience.*)

Who’s Gone:

Josh Banks: Banks was a junior college transfer, graduated from UW in June. He was a reserve defensive tackle that appeared in multiple games in 2013.

Sione Potoa’e: Potoa’e was a highly touted recruit coming out of Lakes HS. Unfortunately his college career never panned out due to injuries. Sione graduated with his teammates and classmates last June.

Josh Shirley: Shirley surprised everyone when he announced he would be transferring to UNLV. He has been one of the Huskies most effective pass rushers who would have surely contributed in 2014. Shirley is eligible to play for UNLV right away because he graduated from UW in June.

Lawrence Lagafuaina: Lagafuaina also graduated in June and transferred to Hawaii to be closer to home. He will be competing against some familiar faces on Aug. 30th when the Huskies travel to play the Warriors.

Connor Cree: Never saw significant action in his short lived football career. As a redshirt sophomore he has decided to retire from the sport of football.

Jaimie Bryant: Bryant ended up gray-shirting last season and re-joined the team this spring. However, his Husky career was cut short due to a back injury. Bryant has taken a medical retirement.

 

2014-2015 DL:

Standup DE:

Hau’oli Kikaha: (6-3 246 lbs; Senior; 2013 Stats: 70 Tackles, 15.5 TFL, 13 Sacks, 3 FF) Kikaha is geared up for a breakout season on a national level. Kikaha is one of the elite pass rushers in the PAC-12 and quite possibly the country. He provides a constant threat to opposing quarterbacks with his relentless motor.

Cory Littleton: (6-3 229 lbs; Junior) Littleton has been a regular contributor for the Huskies since halfway through his freshman season in 2012. He appeared in all 13 games last year and is poised to have an even bigger role in his junior year. Littleton is a versatile threat who can rush the passer or drop back into coverage.

Psalm Wooching: (6-4 225 lbs; Sophomore) Wooching spent last season as a Fullback. However, with new coaches comes a new offensive scheme. Unfortunately, the new offense does not include a traditional Fullback. Wooching has been moved to the defensive side of the ball in what could become a blessing in disguise. According to Husky players, Wooching is one to keep an eye on. Wooching’s game is aggressive, violent, and relentless.

Defensive Tackle:

Evan Hudson: (6-6 273 lbs; Senior; 2013 Stats: 21 Tackles, 4.5 TFL, 4 Sacks) Hudson spent the first three years of his Husky career as a TE. Last off-season he was converted to the other side of the ball due to depth issues along the defensive line. Hudson has made the most of the opportunity by solidifying himself as the starting DT. Expect Hudson to take yet another step further in his fifth year on campus.

Taani Tupou: (6-2 282 lbs; Junior) Tupou has spent the majority of his first two season as a reserve defensive lineman while playing a vital role on special teams. He saw significant playing time at DT towards the end of last season and was a standout performer in spring. Tupou has carried that momentum into fall camp and looks ready to contribute regularly in 2014.

Joe Mathis: (6-2 250 lbs; Sophomore) Mathis was a heralded recruit who came in a contributed right away. Expect Mathis to take one step further this season. He provides the Huskies with a versatile defensive lineman who will be utilized as an interior pass rusher.

Damion Turpin: (6-4 266 lbs; Redshirt Sophomore) Turpin has spent his first three seasons as a reserve defensive lineman. He has yet to get any significant playing time. Hopefully he will see some more action in the defensive line rotation in 2014.

Will Dissly: (6-4 273 lbs; Freshman) Dissly is a player that Husky Nation should be extremely excited about. He was coined as a “Diamond in the Rough” by Coach Pete on National Signing Day last February. Dissly didn’t receive appropriate national recognition in High School due to living in rural Montana. Dissly has the size, speed, and technique to make SEC scouts drool. However, he was discovered by Coach Pete and has so far lived up to the hype at UW. Dissly has been running with the second string defensive line in fall camp; expect to see him get significant playing time this season.

Nose Tackle:

Danny Shelton: (6-2 339 lbs; Senior; 2013 Stats: 59 Tackles; 3.5 TFL, 2 Sacks) Shelton is the linchpin of the entire defense. He clogs up running lanes and ties up offensive lineman which allows the Husky Linebackers to run freely and make plays. Shelton has assumed a leadership role on and off the field. He is looking to take his game to the next level and have an All-American season. Expect to see him playing on Sundays next year.

Elijah Qualls: (6-1 311 lbs; Redshirt Freshman) Qualls offers another prototypical Nose Tackle body. Expect to see him get action as the backup Nose Tackle in 2014. Qualls is a stout defensive lineman with extreme versatility with his freakish athleticism. At nearly 300 lbs, he played running back in high school! Don’t believe me? Check out his highlight video:

Greg Gaines: (6-1 321 lbs; Freshman) Gaines is a highly touted recruit who will compete with Qualls to be Danny Shelton’s backup. Gaines will provide valuable depth along the defensive line.

Kaleb McGary: (6-7 291 lbs; Freshman) McGary is an intriguing player, many believed that he was recruited to play Offensive Tackle; however, it appears he will play along the defensive line in 2014. McGary provides a rare blend of size, speed, and strength that will set the foundation to a promising career.

Vita Vea: (6-4 346 lbs; Freshman) Vea is easily one of the more physically intimidating members of the 2014 Huskies squad. Vea was a highly recruited defensive tackle out of high school; however, due to eligibility issues he failed to sign a college football letter of intent. Vea provides the Huskies with yet another Nose Tackle-type body that is rare at the college level.

Traditional DE:

Andrew Hudson: (6-3 246 lbs; Senior) Hudson has elected to exercise his fifth year of eligibility after graduating in June. Hudson has four years of game experience and veteran leadership. Expect Hudson to have a significant presence along the defensive line this year.

Jarret Finau: (6-3 261 lbs; Junior) Finau has yet to receive any significant playing time in his Husky career, but that will change in 2014. He provides an athletic big body up front that can rush the passer and be stout against the run.

Drew Schultz: (6-2 266 lbs; Senior) Schultz has not had any meaningful game day experience in his Husky career. He has been a valuable practice player, and with the depth ahead of him don’t expect that to change in 2014.

Shane Bowman: (6-3 247 lbs; Freshman) Bowman is a local product coming from Bellevue High School and is fulfilling his dream of playing for the hometown Huskies. Considering the amount of depth and versatility along the defensive line, expect Bowman to redshirt in 2014 while spending time getting bigger in the weight room.

Jaylen Johnson: (6-2 254 lbs; Freshman) Johnson was a long time Boise State commit, but ended up showing his loyalty to Coach Pete and his staff by following them to UW. Johnson is an athletic defensive end who can rush the passer with the best of them. Johnson still has a chance to see some action in 2014; however, he will more than likely end up redshirting.

 

2014 Outlook:

The Huskies strength on the defensive side of the ball lies within the front seven. In order to be an elite defensive line a team must have a threatening pass rush, dominant run defense, and talented depth. The 2014 Dawgs check all three of those boxes. Hau’oli Kikaha shows up in opposing quarterback’s nightmares with his lethal blend of quickness and power moves, Danny Shelton is perhaps the most effective run defender in all of college football, and the Huskies boast at least seven experienced defensive lineman. Having a top-tier defensive line will go a long way in helping a young and inexperienced secondary find their bearings. Last year’s defense was one of the best Husky defenses in recent memory; expect the 2014 squad to build off of that momentum and once again be a force to reckon with. Husky fans should expect big things from their defense this season, and the defensive line in particular.

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