The Husky pass rush took a major hit in the spring when outside linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui was deemed out 6-10 months with a torn Achilles. There’s talk that he could return this season, and we’re getting teased that he is jogging with “no noticeable limp.”
Jogging limp free is not quite the same as putting full weight on your Achilles and thrusting yourself into a 330 pound offensive tackle. If he comes back, that is insane and credit to the UW staff and ZTF himself. UW fans have not seen a pass rushing force like him since Hau’oli Kikaha.
For now, Tupuola-Fetui’s snaps (and opportunities to corral opposing QBs) fall to other Husky defenders.
Is there a clear favorite here? Who leads the Huskies in sacks this season?
A few candidates:
Bralen Trice (opted out of redshirt freshman season in 2020)
Yeah, that’s what I said about ZTF when he made his first sack last season.
Bralen Trice opted out of football last fall for personal reasons, something we didn’t know until Jimmy Lake mentioned it after the 2021 spring game. Coming out of spring practice, Trice is 20 pounds heavier, and being touted as one of the most improved Husky players.
“He could be one of those guys who you know about, but Husky Nation doesn’t know and, all of a sudden, in the first couple of games in the fall, his name could be called out a lot,” Lake said.
UW Outside linebacker coach Ikaika Malloe, said “Bralen probably will be better than Joe Tryon. He’s very long, he’s athletic and he can drop into space. He can do all those intangibles and he’s physical enough. He does want to put his hat and eyes on you. As he progresses, he will take about the same path Joe Tryon did.”
High praise, but it’s preseason coach speak, and these player comparisons need to be taken with a grain of salt; kind of like rehabbing players who jog without a limp.
Edefuan Ulofoshio (1.0 sack last season, 4.0 career)
In 2018 and 2017, the Husky sack leader has less than six sacks, and it would take a similar result in 2021 for Ulofoshio (or anyone other than an Edge player) to take the sack crown. We know about the motor, we know about the football IQ and time he spends preparing.
Although the Huskies generally don’t blitz a ton, they did it a bit more last season. When they don’t blitz, they like to mix up which three or four players rush the quarterback. Ulofoshio will get opportunities to chase the QB, but more than a half dozen sacks seems far-fetched for Eddie-U.
Ryan Bowman (1.0 sack last year, 13 career)
Yep, Ryan Bowman is still around. The 6’2” 280 pound senior has been steady during his Husky career. Emerging as a walk-on during the 2017 season, Bowman registered 5.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman. In 2018, Bowman would be put on scholarship and continue to be one of the Huskies most disruptive defenders. During his Husky career, he’s tallied 102 total tackles, including 24 TFL and 13 sacks.
Bowman is a high-motor player with a knack for getting to the quarterback. He isn’t a freak athlete on the edge which he acknowledged recently, saying that he’s the focusing on his “explosiveness, speed, strength.”
“I know if I do those three things the best, then there’s not going to be a whole lot that can stop me,” Bowman said.
Bowman was fairly quiet in 2020, with 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and one sack. You can attribute this to the fact that he missed the final two games, (vs Utah and Stanford). Maybe you can attribute some of the defenses struggles in those game to the absence of Bowman as well, who played on 65% of the snaps vs OSU & Arizona.
Like Ulofoshio, Bowman has a realistic potential of registering around five or six sacks this season season. Hopefully that’s not enough to lead the Husky team.
Sav’ell Smalls (Redshirt Freshman, zero sacks last year)
This seems like the favorite if there is one.
I was surprised to see Sav’ell Smalls didn’t record a sack (or even a tackle for loss), during his true freshman season. He was a force out there at times, and was certainly responsible for some of the sacks other guys (namely ZTF) were able to get.
What might be most important is that as the (short) season went on, the coaches trusted him to be out there more regularly. Smalls played in 10% of the defensive snaps vs Oregon State, then 40% of the meaningful snaps vs Arizona (he also got a ton of 4th quarter garbage time run in that game). In the final two games, Smalls was on the field over 70% of the time for the Husky defense.
His bull rush as a true freshman was impressive to say the very least. And this is a guy who was most touted for his elite footwork and balance. Expectations are high for Smalls, and a 10-sack season is within his reach.
Who leads the Washington Huskies in sacks this season?
This poll is closed
Screw it, I like Kool Aid. Give me ZTF