Yesterday Andrew kicked off our countdown series by talking about the players on offense who a Husky fan would most like to add to this year’s roster. Today we’ll talk about the other half of the field with a defensive player.
Now there are 2 parts to this evaluation. The first is how good the player is and the second is what Washington’s depth chart looks like. Just as Andrew did in the offense-only section yesterday I’m looking at players who didn’t earn 1st or 2nd team all-conference last year and aren’t incoming transfers.
Lu-Magio Hearns- Cornerback, California
2021 Stats- 30 solo tackles, 1 INT, 7 pass break-ups, 1 fumble recovery
There’s no question that corner is the spot on the Husky defense with the least experience. All 3 of Washington’s starters (Kyler Gordon, Trent McDuffie, and Bookie Radley-Hiles) have moved on and 2 of them were high selections in the NFL Draft. Washington added an FCS standout in Jordan Perryman and have a potential diamond in the rough with former walk-on Mishael Powell but bringing in a true stud with Pac-12 experience would have been nice to see.
Heading into his true sophomore season Hearns looks like an absolute steal for Justin Wilcox at Cal. The Bears were his only power conference offer and he quickly earned a starting outside spot and finished 2nd in the conference in pass break-ups and 12th in overall PFF grade among eligible corners. At 5’10 he doesn’t have prototypical size but that’s part of what led him to be overlooked coming out of high school. Hearns was honorable mention all-conference in the preseason but has a chance to really breakthrough this season.
Popo Aumavae- Defensive Line, Oregon
2021 Stats- 27 solo tackles, 24 QB pressures
The defensive line has a chance to be quite good for Washington this year but that’s far from a certainty. Tuli Letuligasenoa has been an above average nose tackle the last few years when he’s been on the field but there have been some injuries that have caused him to miss a little time. The rest of the rotation is largely unproven despite flashes from Faatui Tuitele, Kuao Peihopa, and Voi Tunuufi among others. However, the Dawgs had their floor lowered when Taki Taimani decided to transfer south to Eugene after years of solid production.
So turnaround is fair play. Aumavae graded out by PFF as the best defensive lineman in the conference last year. He doesn’t have his height/weight listed on the Oregon roster but he looks to be a solidly built ~310 pounds. The 0 sacks number meant his impact didn’t show up in the box score as readily but his overall pressure rate was elite for a nose tackle. Pairing him with Tuli inside would help shore up UW’s run defense and provide an interior pass rush that is the key to any great defensive line.
Korey Foreman- Edge, USC
2021 Stats- 5 solo tackles, 1 sacks, 11 QB pressures
Washington theoretically has the makings of a solid edge rushing unit but there’s not a lot of certainty there. ZTF was a monster in 2020 but wasn’t able to immediately come back as an impact player coming off an Achilles injury last year. Jeremiah Martin was fine but not spectacular after transferring in from Texas A&M. Bralen Trice before last year earned comparisons to Joe Tryon yet hasn’t put it all together. And finally, Sav’ell Smalls is still looking for his first collegiate sack after coming in as a raw local 5-star.
So why not add one more lottery ticket to the bunch? Foreman was the #1 player in the country in the class of 2021 but dealt with injuries and never broke into the starting lineup. He has all the physical tools though and had a 14% pressure rate when he did play even if he only ended up with the 1 sack. Maybe Trice isn’t quite ready. And maybe Smalls isn’t quite ready. But what are the odds that none of a Trice, Smalls, and Foreman trio would hit? More than 0 but if you’re looking to take a swing at a breakout guy then Foreman is the pick.
Which Pac-12 player would you add to the Husky defense?
Lu-Magio Hearns- Cornerback, California
Popo Aumavae- Defensive Lineman, Oregon
Korey Foreman- Edge Rusher, USC
Other (Add in comments)