The off-season and Spring symbolizes one thing in college football: Hope. Hope that your team will get better or repeat the success of last year. With the Washington football team, there’s a good amount of reason to hope. We’re entering our 3rd year under a new coaching staff and that is when you see the argument of playing with “the old coaches players'” go out the window. As Bob Condotta notes in a recent post, this is Sarkisian’s team now.
With that, comes getting to know a few players who will fill in where graduates left. On defense, the Huskies lose three significant players, along with a few role players. Here’s who they lose and who will fill the hole that has been left:
Who’s Gone: De’Shon Matthews
Matthews had an interesting career at UW. He red-shirted his freshman year and showed a good amount of promise in the Spring game and Fall camp, he played sparingly his red-shirt freshman year. In this time, because of a lack of depth at defensive tackle, Willingham decided that a 260 lb. freshman switch positions was a good idea. It wasn’t. From there on out, no one really heard from Matthews. This year he played a little bit. With injuries at defensive end, Matthews got some time towards the end of the year and got a start in the Holiday Bowl. He played well at times, but the Dawgs have better players than him on the roster.
The New Guys:
The Huskies already have some players that have filled in at this spot. Led by Talia Crichton, Everrette Thompson, Hau’oli Jamora (along with a few backups such as Kaleni Aldrich), most of the players you’ll see at this position next year will look familiar. There are two guys who will make an impact who red-shirted this year, Andrew Hudson and Josh Shirley.
Hudson came to UW from California in last year’s recruiting class. It came as a surprise that Hudson red-shirted this year. He was thought to be the most physically ready of all incoming freshman defensive ends, but it was decided that he should red-shirt and put some weight on. The roster lists him as only 230 lbs. but he has gotten bigger since then. The coaches raved about him during bowl practices and said they see him making an impact next year.
Josh Shirley had a confusing road to Washington. Shirley decided between UCLA and UW on signing day last year and Huskies fans were let down when he picked UCLA. Then, Shirley ran into some legal trouble in his couple weeks at UCLA, was kicked off the team and immediately transferred to Washington. Many thought he’d be a linebacker, but the coaches moved him to defensive end. He was also thought to make an immediate impact, but that didn’t end up happening. Shirley wasn’t big enough to play right away at defensive end so he took the year to develop. He was raved about by the end of the year and will be a quick threat off the edge next year. Expect him to make a big impact in the pass rush.
Who’s Gone: Cameron Elisara
Elisara was another guy with an interesting career as a Husky. He came to UW as a highly rated recruit but never really developed into that guy. Blame it on a series of stingers that eventually ended his career a few games early. The Huskies have already dealt with the loss of Elisara and it won’t greatly affect them because of the Alameda Ta’amu and Semisi Tokolahi combination. I always have felt a little bad for Cameron. It always seemed that when he would take a step forward he would suffer some nagging injury that would take him out.
The New Guys:
As I mentioned, the main guys at this position are Alameda Ta’amu and Semisi Tokolahi. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Everrette Thompson moves back inside because of the depth at end. There are two guys that I think will make an impact that we didn’t hear much from this year, Sione Potoae and Lawrence Lagafuiana.
Sione came to UW as the biggest defensive line commit in recent memory (think Danny Shelton this year, only more hype). Because of a lack of depth at the position, Sione was forced into playing time. He wasn’t dominated but he also did it make a big impact for the Dawgs. Another year of development in the weight room and in practice could turn him into the player his potential suggests he can be. If he can take a step forward like Tokolahi did this year, the Huskies will have their best group of defensive tackles in over a decade.
Lawrence Lagafuiana is a mammoth man. He is only 6 feet tall but came to UW weighing about 35o lbs. He has dropped weight since then, but still takes up a lot of room inside. He is said to have lots of strength in his lower body, and with his weight he should be able to move people around. He will add depth next year and will get some playing time.
I’m not including incoming freshmen in this because Matthew recently wrote a series of posts about them. There are some intriguing commits that could be put in these positions though. I’ll be back with linebackers and safety soon.
Thanks for reading!