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UW Football Roster Recap and Look Ahead- Defense/Special Teams

What do the scholarship numbers look like entering spring ball and how many spots are available for 2020 on the defensive side of the ball?

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

I looked at the roster numbers on offense last week and you can find that article here.

Defensive Line

Current # on Scholarship: 12

# of Seniors: 3

Potential Early Entrants: 1

It can be challenging sometimes to give a true positional designation to the players along Washington’s front. Jaylen Johnson rotated last year between DT, DE, and OLB depending on whom he was playing alongside. But 11 of the 12 players in this category are at least 275 pounds, and the last one is Draco Bynum, who weighed in at 257 last year but is listed as a defensive lineman on the official Husky roster. Benning Potoa’e was moved from OLB to DL on the official Husky roster so he’s included in this category as well while Jason Scrempos, Josiah Bronson, and John Clark are also seniors. I’ve never seen an official statement stating definitively that either Bronson or Clark is on scholarship now, although I believe Bronson is following his transfer from Temple.

Levi Onwuzurike is the one guy who we know will play the majority of the snaps and he’s also the one player with the combination of experience, size, and speed for it to be realistic that he could jump to the NFL following this season. We know that the coaching staff doesn’t want another situation like the past few years when UW went two consecutive seasons without taking a potential nose tackle. But with four DTs in the 2019 class they’re likely to even things out a little more and so one or two DL seems more likely.

Potential 2020 Targets: ???

You can tell that the Huskies feel pretty good with their most recent haul by the fact that they have only one offer currently out to a defensive player that weighs more than 235 pounds. This is also just a bad year for DTs out West, which made the 2019 class so important. There are no DTs west of Texas currently in 247’s top 25 at the position, and two of the top three DTs in the West are committed to Notre Dame and LSU. The rest of the Pac-12 is in trouble at this spot after the Huskies stole all the DT honey in 2019 before a long hard winter of hibernation is upon them with this class.

Outside Linebackers

Current # on scholarship: 7

# of seniors: 0

Potential Early Entrants: 0

Washington is in very solid shape at the OLB position with Ryan Bowman, Joe Tryon, and Ariel Ngata all returning after seeing play last season. Ngata has been listed as an ILB rather than OLB on the team website but I’m leaving him in this category for now. However, if that move becomes permanent it could make more room for what looks to be a loaded crop of pass rushers that the Huskies are after for 2020.

UW 2020 Commits: Jordan Lolohea*- 6’3, 240 (0.857 composite)

*Lolohea committed to Washington in the Class of 2017 but chose to go on his LDS mission. He did not come back for the Class of 2019 and so if he ends up at Washington would be in the 2020 class.

Potential 2020 Targets: 5-star Sav’ell Smalls—6’3, 230 (0.997 composite), 4-star Jaden Navarrette—6’3, 235 (0.926 composite), 4-star Jordan Banks—6’1, 228 (0.922 composite), 4-star Nick Herbig—6’2, 200 (0.909 composite)

Everyone has heard of the first name on that target list as Smalls is one of the best high school players in the country regardless of class or position. He’d be the most highly rated UW prospect since Shaq Thompson and would come in and contribute immediately. Smalls clearly enjoys attention but he has been very overt with his Husky love recently on Twitter. This will still be a national recruitment and Smalls will take his time, but over the last six months UW has gone from probable longshot to contender to maybe favorite for the hometown hero.

Navarrette mostly played WR last season for his high school team due to need but the Huskies like him as a pass rusher and there is mutual interest. Banks had a lot of positive things to say about UW last month but some recent unofficials to the blue bloods have hosed him off some. Herbig is the brother of Stanford’s Nate Herbig, who almost came to Washington out of Hawaii. He’s been rumored to be very high on Wisconsin but he’s made it clear he also really likes UW.

Inside Linebackers

Current # on scholarship: 9

# of seniors: 3

Potential Early Entrants: 0

Washington lost both Ben Burr-Kirven and Tevis Bartlett to graduation for 2019 and will be getting even thinner at the position in 2020. Brandon Wellington, D.J. Beavers, and Kyler Manu are all seniors and the hope is that they can hold down the fort this upcoming season and allow the young redshirt and true freshmen to get some more time in the weight room before they’re called upon. Beavers is recovering from a leg injury sustained in the Rose Bowl and Wellington also has an extensive injury history so we may need to see Jackson Sirmon and M.J. Tafisi starting at some point. This year may be a relative rough patch but those two plus the four newcomers of Josh Calvert, Daniel Heimuli, Miki Ah You, and Alphonzo Tuputala mean the cupboard is being restocked rapidly. They will probably look to take two LBs in this class given that there will be zero upperclassmen recruited as ILBs in 2020.

Potential 2020 Targets: 4-star Jordan Botelho—6’3, 220 (0.948 composite), 3-star Carson Bruener—6’2, 205 (0.853 composite)

The Huskies are in great shape with Botelho, who was teammates with 2019 commit Faatui Tuitele (as well as currently with the aforementioned Nick Herbig) and is the top-ranked player from Hawaii in this class. The only other two offers that UW has out are to 5-star Justin Flowe and high 4-star Noah Sewell. Flowe has some interest in Washington but it feels very much like the Bru McCoy recruitment where it’d be almost impossible for UW to finish better than third. Sewell’s dad publicly accused UW of intentionally injuring his older son Penei, who plays for Oregon, and the Huskies recognized the lost cause and haven’t contacted him since. Carson doesn’t have a UW offer yet but he’s the son of former Husky TE Mark Bruener and the coaching staff has been in talks with him, so it seems a good bet UW can reel him in if/when they do pull the trigger on offering.


Current # on scholarship: 8

# of seniors: 1

Potential Early Entrants: 1

It is a little bit tricky to tell who should be viewed as a corner or safety given that Washington is open to trying most of their defensive backs out at both positions and seeing where they fit best. Julius Irvin, Kyler Gordon, and Kamren Fabiculanan have all been talked about as either safeties or corners at various points but I’m listing them as corners for now. At least two starting spots seem fairly secure in 2019, with Myles Bryant and Keith Taylor almost certain to occupy the nickel and one outside spot. Elijah Molden has mostly seen time as Bryant’s backup at the nickel so we’ll see if the coaching staff chooses to play him outside full time or rotates him through all positions. All of the redshirt freshmen could see playing time backing those three up or stepping in due to injury and the future is bright at the position. Taylor’s PFF grades were extremely impressive so while it’d be somewhat surprising to see him leave as a redshirt sophomore, he could easily follow in Byron Murphy’s footsteps with his height/length and another year of stellar play.

Potential 2020 Targets: 5-star Kelee Ringo—6’2, 205 (0.995 composite), 4-star Clark Phillips III—5’11, 178 (0.980 composite), 4-star Ayden Hector—6’1, 185 (0.918 composite)

The big target here is Ringo, who is originally from the Seattle area. While he now lives in Arizona he also still participates with Ford Sports and knows all the local guys, and he now goes to the same high school as Byron Murphy, which obviously turned out pretty well for all involved. Jimmy Lake has turned almost every UW defensive back into a pro but no Husky has ever had the pedigree of Ringo entering college. Clark Phillips is another high 4-star guy that has Washington in his current top-12 and is seriously considering the Huskies. You can check out his interview with UWDP’s Aaron Sieverkropp here. Ayden Hector is part of the talented Eastside Catholic crew and profiles as the type of hybrid corner/safety that the Huskies love. While UW is certainly a factor, you can bet that Stanford and USC (his dad played there) will also be heavily in the running. However, good luck naming the last time Jimmy Lake lost a recruiting battle for a local kid.


Current # on scholarship: 5

# of seniors: 0

Potential Early Entrants: 0

Junior Brandon McKinney is the one sure bet at safety since he was the clear third safety throughout the year and both starters have now moved on. The favorite for that second safety spot by virtue of experience is redshirt junior Isaiah Gilchrist, but he wasn’t able to see the field much this past season and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him passed over by one of the younger hybrid defensive backs like Julius Irvin or Kyler Gordon. I don’t want to speculate, but solely under the hypothetical that Gilchrist doesn’t end up cracking the rotation this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to him transfer or graduate on time as there’s never going to be a better time for him to get on the field than right now.

The Huskies moved Alex Cook from WR to safety to increase their depth at the spot. While it seems unlikely he could make the switch and play right away, there is definitely an opening for playing time at that second safety spot. Cam Williams and Asa Turner should be good ones down the road but it’s been a while since a true freshman started for UW in the secondary. I’d expect the Huskies to take a single safety in this class, even though they aren’t losing anyone, just to keep up their depth at the position unless Gordon and Irvin are both viewed as full-time safeties.

Potential 2020 Targets: 4-star Lathan Ransom—6’2, 183 (0.962 composite), 3-star Zion Alefosio—6’1, 190 (0.867 composite)

Ransom is the top safety on the West coast this year so the competition for him is going to be significant. He has offers from almost every Pac-12 school plus plenty of national ones and at this point the Huskies have to be viewed as major underdogs. Washington has yet to offer Alefosio but he told Greg Biggins a few months ago that there’s a chance he’d accept a UW offer on the spot.

Special Teams

Current # on scholarship: 4

# of seniors: 2

Potential Early Entrants: 0

Washington is in the unfortunate position of having two kickers on scholarship since they missed on Van Soderberg and have Tim Horn coming in as a freshman. Starting punter Joel Whitford is a senior in 2019 while his backup, Race Porter, isn’t on scholarship. There’s a decent chance that Porter gets a scholarship for his senior year in 2020 and the Huskies wait until 2021 to take a new punter. They could also just take their punter of the future now and have Porter remain off scholarship. At the very least they’ll look for another walk-on as a security blanket.

The other senior is long snapper A.J. Carty, who will need to be replaced whether by a scholarship long snapper or by a walk-on. Given that they have multiple scholarship kickers right now, it’d be nice if they didn’t have to spend a scholarship spot on a long snapper as well to free up some space.

Potential 2020 Targets: ??? Let’s be real. I don’t know who the potential punter/long snapper candidates are given that the Huskies haven’t extended an offer to anyone at either spot. We’ll find out when UW brings someone in for a visit or gives out an offer.


Current Scholarship Spots: 45

# of seniors: 9

Potential Early Entrants: 2

Expected 2020 recruits: 9-11