Danny Shelton has flashed brilliance at times during his career at Washington, and that has been the big defensive tackle's biggest problem. The brilliance has only been at times. Inconsistency has plagued Shelton, so Tosh Lupoi and the coaching staff have emphasized getting the junior-to-be to play with full intensity and effort on every play.
Statistically, Shelton isn't very impressive, but a lot of effective DT's aren't. When he's on and being disruptive, you don't see him making the plays, you'll see John Timu come through a gaping hole up the middle on a blitz, or Andrew Hudson beat his man one on one around the edge, or an opposition's runner gets strung out to the edge and dropped for a loss by Travis Feeney. These plays happen when Shelton occupies a double team, creating matchups and holes for his teammates by occupying available blockers.
If the defense is to take the next step from good to great, then Shelton is an easy player to point to as being the linchpin. His improved play could elevate everyone around him to the next level as well, even if they don't actually improve that much.
Defensive tackle is a pretty thin position for the Huskies right now, as Shelton lacks a definitive running mate right now on the interior of the defensive line. There are a number of players who could win the job, but it's mostly a mishmash of guys who are coming off of injury, or who are just entering the program. As such, Shelton might be the player that Huskies can least afford to lose to injury this year, and that's somewhat fortuitous for the Dawgs, as Shelton is a perfect 26/26 games played for his career.
It's not a glamorous position, but as we learned with Alameda Ta'amu, a dominant guy in the middle who seldom gets his name called can dominate an offense not suited to deal with him. #71 isn't there yet, but he could get there, and heading into his junior year it's time for him to take that step. The word out of spring camp from both coaches and onlookers was that Shelton was at his finest in his young career in terms of productivity and effort.
A stat line of 45 tackles, 4 for a loss, a half a sack and a fumble recovery isn't striking fear into anybody, but numbers don't always tell the tale of the tape, and the opposing coaches watching the tape on Shelton will surely be gameplanning for what the big guy can do.