What type of an impact is Josh Shirley going to have on the Washington defense this year? The answer to that would be as a speed pass rusher. As you can see by his film below he was almost unblockable at the HS level. He was also very impressive in the Army All American Game while playing with the best recruits in the country.
Even the most talented of freshmen need time to adjust to the college game not to mention learn the nuances of the defense their team will be running. Josh hasn't spent the last three months studying the Washington play book so he has some serious catch up work to do.
Some envision Josh having the impact of a Regan Upshaw who in three years at Cal had 28 sacks and 49 tackles for loss before moving on to the NFL early as the number 12 pick overall in the 1996 draft. Josh is listed at 6'2 220 while Upshaw was 6'4 265 so while Shirley will end up being a pass rusher it isn't lock that he will end do it with his hand up or down during his career.
According to UW LB coach Mike Cox he is going to start off at the SLB/LEO position. Josh has never played much in space before so he is going to be facing a learning curve in that regard. I can see him starting off as a special teams player and getting some situational looks during passing situations as he learns the nuances of the defense over the first half of the season.
I can see them using Josh as a speed end in a 4-3 type of alignment. His size and speed can also help shut down the spread because his speed should allow him to cover well. That might be more of a mid season type of transition because like we said it takes time to learn the defense.
One thing Shirley has in his favor when it comes to early starting time is that he is competing for a position that is wide open going into camp. Jr Alvin Logan, and Sr Victor Aiyewa are new to the position while Sr Matt Houston has been buried in the depth most of his career. Logan didn't look bad this spring while Aiyewa who is the favorite to earn the starting job sat out after surgery. The SLB position is wide open.
With the addition of Shirley the Huskies added seven new LB candidates to the roster in 2010. I can see 3 or more of these kids contributing this season because camp is going to be a free for all.
Victor Burnett is already penciled in behind behind Cort Dennison at MLB and Jamaal Kearse has put on enough size to see the field this season. Kearse who was recruited as a safety could also be in the mix at SLB.
Shirley is going to make an impact this season. The only question is how long it will take him to get comfortable with the scheme.