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Better/Worse/Neutral: Defensive Line

The Husky defensive front returns experienced talent up front buttressed by a group of young could-be stars.

Steve Dykes

Returning: Marcus Farria (SO), Jarett Finau (JR), Andrew Hudson (SR), Evan Hudson (SR), Joe Mathis (SO), Elijah Qualls (RS-FR), Danny Shelton (SR), Taniela Tupou (JR), Damion Turpin (SO)

Losses: Josh BanksConnor Cree, Lawrence Lagafuaina, Sione Potoa'e, Josh Shirley

Additions: Shane Bowman, Jaimie Bryant, Will Dissly, Greg Gaines, Jaylen Johnson, Kaleb McGary

This group is either really solid or among the nation's elite, depending on how you classify Hau'oli Kikaha. We can debate til we're blue in the face about what his actual role will be in 2014 since he's listed as a linebacker, but given his prowess as a pass rusher he'll be contributing in some capacity which will aid in what the defensive line does. He did a fair amount of standing up and moving around a year ago -- especially on passing downs -- and the "move" to linebacker probably just means doing that stuff with greater frequency.

The anchor of the defensive line, the defensive front, the defense as a whole, and maybe the entire team is Danny Shelton. He has been called Washington's most important player this season, and it's hard to argue. If he has a dominant season, the Husky defense could take a step up and go from a good defense to one of the best in the country. If Shelton disappears or gets dinged up, the defense may falter, as his likely backup (Qualls) has yet to take a collegiate snap, and though he's got loads of potential he'll struggle with the grind of the Pac-12 schedule as most freshmen do.

The list of players lost from a year ago is long on players who played, but short on players who made regular impacts. The elite bunch of defensive line recruits from the 2013 class should be ready to step into any vacated backup roles and spell the starters, with the overall result being a front that has better depth and talent.

Verdict: Better. With all of its starters back and the continued development of guys like Marcus Farria and Jojo Mathis, there should be an excellent blend of upperclassmen underclassmen rotating in and out with each other. It's a strong group that should regularly alter games in UW's favor throughout the season.