Yesterday we looked at who the Huskies might take if they were able to draft a player from one of their fellow Pac-12 school which means...you guessed it. Today we’re picking from among the defensive players. First, some ground rules. I’m not allowed to pick anyone who made 1st or 2nd team all-conference last season. I can’t just take Kayvon Thibodeaux and call it a day. Second, I’m not factoring in how it might weaken an opponent. It’s all about fit for the Huskies based on bringing that player into the fold.
Let’s go over the potential options.
Defensive Tackle Jermayne Lole- Arizona State
6’2, 300 lbs, 28 games played, 123 career tackles, 11 career sacks
The biggest flaw with last season’s Husky defense was their inability to stop the run for much of the season. Washington gave up 4.5 yards per carry and over 160 yards per game to opponents. Much of that was attributable to a lack of push from the defensive front. Josiah Bronson is gone after starting 4 games in 2020 and was ineffective when he played. Tuli Letuligasenoa missed a few games due to injury and the young talent behind him didn’t exactly level up in his absence.
Bringing in an impact player at the defensive tackle spot would instantly boost Washington’s production. Lole finished 2nd among all Pac-12 defenders last season (behind UW’s Edefuan Ulofoshio) in PFF’s grading system after he had only 2 fewer pressures than Zion Tupuola-Fetui in the same number of games. At 300 pounds playing inside. And oh yeah, he didn’t miss a tackle. With Lole on the roster it allows all the other DTs to downshift a spot and gives the Dawgs 2 above average starters at that position plus a number of overqualified backups in case of injury.
Linebacker Jahad Woods- Washington State
6’1, 225 lbs, 43 career games, 319 career tackles, 9.5 career sacks
In addition to the struggles on the defensive interior, there has been plenty of criticism focused at Jackson Sirmon in recent years. Edefuan Ulofoshio has proven to be a revelation but it’s pretty difficult to view Sirmon as very high above replacement level given UW’s standards at the position.
Enter Woods who is a 3-time Pac-12 honorable mention linebacker and would give Washington another reliable option in the middle of the defense. Last year Woods struggled with missed tackles a little but it was a small sample size and he was much better in that regard in his previous 3 years. PFF had Woods as the 8th rated LB in the conference in 2020 in what was his 2nd highest graded season. The addition of Woods probably doesn’t turn Washington’s defense into the 2016 unit but helps shore up one of potentially the weak links on that side of the ball.
Outside Linebacker Carson Wells- Colorado
6’4, 250 lbs, 26 career games, 103 career tackles, 12 career sacks
It looked like outside linebacker was going to be Washington’s best position with Ryan Bowman coming back for a 6th year plus ZTF coming off a dominant 2020 season. Unfortunately, ZTF ruptured his Achilles in the spring and now the Huskies are relying on a combo of young unproven talent (Sav’ell Smalls, Bralen Trice, Cooper McDonald) to start opposite Bowman.
Those concerns would be alleviated if Wells were on the team. He wreaked havoc last season with 16 tackles for loss in 6 games. Unsurprisingly he finished with the 2nd best run defense grade per PFF among Pac-12 edge players in 2020 and rated 4th overall. Somehow though he didn’t make 1st or 2nd team all-conference so he’s fair game here in this exercise. And if ZTF comes back on the shorter end of his recovery timeline to play before the end of the year? Well that’s one of them good problems to have.
Cornerback Christian Roland-Wallace- Arizona
5’11, 204 lbs, 17 career games, 51 career tackles, 9 career passes defended, 1 INT
If you had to pick one position on the defense where the Huskies probably don’t need any help it would be at cornerback. But sometimes the way to get a truly historically elite defense is to add on another piece to an already very strong unit. Washington looks set with Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon on the outside and new Oklahoma transfer Brendan Radley-Hiles in the slot.
However I can’t pass up the potential value. When I went back and rewatched every 2020 Husky game this summer the play of Roland-Wallace really stood out to me. Arizona’s defense was terrible that day but he was the one Wildcat who popped with multiple really nice plays on the outside. PFF graded him as the 5th best corner in the conference last season and I’m not surprised. Bringing in Roland-Wallace would allow Kyler Gordon to start at the nickel then have Bookie come in to take Kyler’s place whenever he gives a breather to the starting outside guys. It also guarantees that the corner play will remain excellent even with an injury to any of those 4 players.
Which Pac-12 Defender Would You Add to the 2021 Washington Roster?
This poll is closed
Arizona St. DT Jermayne Lole
Washington St. LB Jahad Woods
Colorado OLB Carson Wells
Arizona CB Christian Roland-Wallace
Arizona State’s Jermayne Lole. There is plenty of talent with Taki Taimani, Faatui Tuitele, and Jacob Bandes all former 4-stars at defensive tackle to pair with Tuli Letuligasenoa. But none of them has shown they can be the guy. Adding in Lole alongside Tuli would give the Huskies the type of pairing up front they had in the Vea/Gaines days and improve the play at both linebacker spots without changing any of the players.