clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

30-Day Countdown, Day 11: Best Defense We’ll Face

In a season of elite Pac-12 QBs, let’s give the defenses some credit.

Utah v UCLA Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Eleven days until Husky Football! Let’s get right into it:

Utah Utes

The biggest loss from Utah’s defense is All-American CB Clark Phillips, who was taken in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. They also lost a couple of contributors on the D line, but DT Junior Tafuna is back, and Utah always seems to reload on defense under Kyle Whittingham. I, for one, am not concerned about the state of the Utah defensive line. The secondary should be able to absorb the loss of Phillips with All-Conference S Cole Bishop. The secondary is also complete with veteran CBs JaTravis Broughton and Zemiah Vaughn. The 6-4 Ole Miss transfer Miles Battle gives them imposing presence outside. At linebacker, Stanford transfer Levani Damuni should combine well with returning star Karene Reid and sophomore Lander Barton. In short, this is another tough and deep Utah defense.

Last season’s 21.43 points allowed per game was well below recent Utah standards and with the returning experience on defense, the expectation is that the unit takes a step forward. In a schedule not chocked full of elite defenses, Utah might easily be the toughest UW faces.

Utah v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Cal Golden Bears

The Bears have ranked in the top half of the Pac-12 in scoring defense in all but one season under Justin Wilcox (the exception being last year’s seventh ranked unit), but the results were subpar last year with poor pass defense and a struggling pass rush. Transfers CB Nohl Williams (UNLV) and S Patrick McMorris (San Diego State) should shore up the secondary and get them playing more like a Wilcox coached unit.

This year’s defense will be led by former Husky Jackson Sirmon, a pre-season Lombardi Award watch-lister, which I assume might split Husky fans opinions. His partner in the linebacking corps will be the uber-experienced Florida transfer David Reese, who can claim 322 career tackles to his name.

Last season, they tried to confuse the Washington offense by rushing three, and dropping eight players into zone coverage. Penix took lots of underneath stuff all night and the offense sputtered at times. This season, with some reinforcements, a Wilcox coached defense could cause lots of problems.

Stanford v California Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Oregon State Beavers

The story for the resurgent Beavers is whether last year’s Pac-12 leading defense (332.8 yards per game) can be repeated despite the losses of CBs Rejzohn Wright and Alex Austin to the NFL, as well as the team’s top tackler Omar Speights to LSU. The secondary should still be in a good position with returning first team All-Conference S Kitan Oladapo, and S Alton Julian, assuming he returns to form after injury. There are veterans in the linebacking corps who will be joined by Wyoming transfer Oluwaseyi Omotosho and his 6.5 sacks from a year ago.

The Beaver defense gave the Huskies all they could handle last year, shutting them out in the first quarter and largely harassing and confusing Michael Penix Jr. all night. Aiding the rebuilding of the defense should be a strong offense and run game which will keep them fresh and in advantageous situations.

Oregon State v Washington Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Oregon Ducks

Oregon’s defense was not great last year, especially in the pass rush. They added a former 5-star from South Carolina, Jordan Burch, to provide some additional length and athleticism on the edge. He didn’t fully show his potential for the Gamecocks, but the hope is he’ll still bolster the Oregon pass rush. Perhaps most troubling last season was the way the Oregon State game ended, with the Beavers running exclusively for four straight drives to score 28 points and win the game - a demoralizing loss for Oregon. They still return Jeffrey Bassa on the inside and Mase Funa on the outside, both play makers. LB Justin Jacobs transfers in from Iowa and should start. Perhaps the best player in the front seven is DE Brandon Dorlus, who earned All-Pac-12 second team honors last year and first team honors in 2021. Last year, he had 39 tackles, 9.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks.

This likely will not be the defense the Huskies face, but with the talent, they could always put together a great game. Not to mention Head Coach Dan Lanning was defensive coordinator of one of the sports all time elite defenses at Georgia. Having all the best players and a head coach like Kirby Smart helps, but he at least should know what elite defense looks like.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 01 Stanford at Oregon Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Washington State Cougars

Despite giving up 400 yards per game last season, WSU was third in the conference in scoring defense and did well getting after the QB, with 2.3 sacks per game. They return potential All-Conference pass rushers Ron Stone Jr. and Brennan Jackson (both sixth year players with 22.5 sacks between them), but the interior of the defensive line will be inexperienced and look like a usual WSU unit - lighter and faster. They lost arguably the best player on last year’s defense - Daiyan Henley. He’s being replaced with the combination of transfers Ahmad Mccullough from Maryland and Devin Richardson from Texas. Neither is terribly experienced and their limited playing time so far has been mixed.

In the secondary, CB Chau Smith-Wade returns and is a stud, and they return experience at safety. With a good secondary and strong pass rush, WSU should be able to cause problems for teams trying to pass the ball, which should serve them well in the Pac-12. However, this does not appear to be a team built to stop the run. In what could be the final Apple Cup, against a pass happy Washington, WSU’s defense might qualify as best we’ll face, despite the spine being a relative weakness.


Who will be the best defense we face this season?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    Utah Utes
    (176 votes)
  • 4%
    Cal Golden Bears
    (11 votes)
  • 17%
    Oregon State Beavers
    (43 votes)
  • 4%
    Oregon Ducks
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    Washington State Cougars
    (1 vote)
241 votes total Vote Now