Spring Preview: Defensive Line

Otto Greule Jr

A position that returns 3 starters, the defensive line has a lot of room to improve upon between now and August 31st.

We've heard the refrain all offseason: the Husky pass rush has got to get better. Fans, media and coaches alike have all said it. It's no secret. The current talent on the roster should provide a bit of a boost, but we might not see that until fall. Guys are recovering from injury, but those who are healthy need to display some urgency right now, because the competition is going to get real stiff if those guys do get healthy and the highly touted freshmen step on campus.

2012 Review

The 2012 season for the defensive line was unspectacular. The pass rush left a ton to be desired and they were hardly dominant against the run. There were good things though, and as we find ourselves saying quite a bit about this team, they mostly centered around 3 youth -- particularly 3 sophomores: Danny Shelton, Andrew Hudson and Josh Shirley.

Shelton showed flashes of dominance, consistently drawing double teams and clogging up the middle. The next step for him will be to start beating those double teams and becoming more disruptive in the backfield.

Shirley is still a good speed rusher off the edge, but he needs to either expand his skillset or the coaching staff is going to have to only use him situationally.

Andrew Hudson had times where he was the best player on the defensive line, and though he's not spectacular at any one thing, he does just about everything well and puts himself into position to make plays. Go watch the game he had against Cal -- yes, I know you could probably pencil you or me in for about 1.5 sacks and 3 TFL against Cal's OL, but still -- and you see a guy who has the ability to take over games at times.

Additions/Subtractions

The losses from 2012 are two guys who were tall on playing time, but short on production: Talia Crichton and Semisi Tokolahi. They finished their careers with a combined 40 solo tackles, 34 assists, 4 sacks, 4 fumbles forced and 3 fumble recoveries. Over the course of 8 seasons, that's basically nothing. Thanks for your service as Dawgs guys, but the time can't come soon enough where we get some players in there that will make their presence felt.

There will be no new additions on the defensive line until fall camp, as none of the touted freshmen signees will make it in early. But when they do, we'll look forward to the arrivals of Andrew Basham, Jojo Mathis, Marcus Farria, and Elijah Qualls.

Projected Spring Depth Chart

DE: Josh Shirley / Connor Cree

DT: Danny Shelton / Sione Potoa'e

DT: Josh Banks / Taniela Tupou

DE: Andrew Hudson / Jarrett Finau

As is often the case in the spring, the depth will be a little strained on the defensive line. Until the freshmen arrive it's going to be get-in-where-you-fit-in, which hopefully will mean a lot of work and reps for the younger guys, and improving technique for the older guys. With Pio Vatuvei and Hau'oli Jamora out until fall the defensive end depth is particularly dire.

Questions For Spring

1. Has Josh Shirley worked on a counterpunch? Speed rushing is great, probably the best weapon for a defensive end against the pass. But when it's your only move, it's easily defeated. Pass rushing and blocking is a chess game, and right now Shirley is lacking enough pieces to play it. He needs to add something -- a bullrush or a spin move (and don't try to tell me he has a spin move, it's just a twirl at this point) that can surprise tackles and keep them guessing.

2. Who steps up beside Shelton? Banks had some moments where he looked like he could be a solid player in the Pac-12, and we've been waiting on Potoa'e for what seems like forever. Younger guys like Tupou will have every opportunity to impress, and they'd be best to capitalize because this will be one of the most hotly contested position battles. If nobody steps up and takes the job in spring, one of the freshmen will in the fall.

3. How is the health? We won't see Jamora and Vatuvei, but they're two integral pieces of the line when they're healthy. The difference between having those two guys and not is huge. If they can't get right then I don't know how much improvement we see at the DE position. But if they can, this could be one of the deepest, most talented position groups on the roster.

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