Better Worse Or Neutral: Defensive Tackle

However many pictures of UW's defensive tackles you think there are, there are fewer. - Steve Dykes

Danny Shelton leads a group of walking wounded coming out of the 2012 season. Nearly everybody is back, but does that mean they'll be better?

Returning Players: Josh Banks (Sr), Lawrence Lagafuaina (Jr), Sione Potoa'e (Sr), Danny Shelton (Jr), Taniela Tupou (So), Damion Turpin (RS-Fr)

Losses: Semisi Tokolahi,

Additions: Elijah Qualls

It's hard to really define who is a defensive tackle for the Huskies because more than just the players listed here will see time on the interior of the line. Connor Cree started there in the spring game. Andrew Hudson spent plenty of time there throughout 2012. But these were more out of necessity as players suffered injuries and the depth withered.

Ideally Washington will be able to rotate Josh Banks, Lawrence Lagafuaina, Sione Potoa'e and Danny Shelton throughout the season and those guys will give them all the production they need. In passing situations Justin Wilcox would likely still opt for a Cree or Hudson on the interior to give the defense and additional pass rusher, but it's important that they'd be doing that by design, and not on 1st and 2nd down out of necessity.

That ideal situation is quite a stretch though. Lagafuaina and Banks are both coming off of injuries in 2012 that caused them to miss a ton of time, and Potoa'e has struggled with knee issues and an inability to be consistently good enough to warrant any long stretches of playing time. Banks has shown some flashes of being a pretty capable player, but the jury is still out on the other two - and Potoa'e is running out of time. If these guys don't step up in 2013, it will likely force the staff's hand into playing highly touted freshman Elijah Qualls.

Shelton is going to be the rock upon which the defensive line - and perhaps the defense as a whole - is built. His play may be more important to the success of those around him than any other single factor. He's being tabbed as a player who should be competing for All Conference honors, and the only thing standing in his way is himself. If he can bring it with consistency there aren't a lot of guys out there who are more destructive to an offense.

The Verdict: Better. It's unlikely that the group gets hit as hard by injuries as it did in 2012, and with improvement from the key contributors it should be improved. Add in contributions from Connor Cree and Andrew Hudson and this group has the potential to be one of the better DT groups the Huskies have had in a while. It seems likely that Qualls sees action this year, and if he is what he's supposed to be he could be spending a lot of time next to Danny Shelton and more because he earned it than out of necessity. This group should be better, but it could be anywhere from a little bit better to a whole heck of a lot better.

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