Player profile: Justin Washington

Justin Washington could be counted on for a major role this season. Read on to see the expectations surrounding him, what he will be doing, and more.

Justin Washington one was one of the biggest surprises to emerge for the Arizona Wildcats during the 2010 season. Displaying an impressive combination of athleticism and strength as a true freshman, Washington turned heads across the Pac-12 by showing that he was not only one of the best freshmen defensive linemen, but one of the best overall.

Washington's transition was not just impressive, but it almost seemed effortless to the untrained eye. He would manhandle offensive lineman and disrupt the opposing backfield with regularity. Whether it was against the run or the pass, Washington was a force to be reckoned with already and he only seemed to improve as the season progressed.

2011 was a completely different story for the defensive lineman. Washington entered fall camp significantly smaller than he appeared to be in the 2010 season after battling what former UA head coach Mike Stoops described as a "stomach thing." Washington wasn't the quick, strong, agile performer Wildcats' fans became familiar with the year before, but instead was just a shell of his former self.

It was a discouraging year for Washington, but the changing in staff and regaining of his strength have him in line to return to the form he was in as a true freshman.

When at 100 percent, Washington can play multiple positions along the line in Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defensive scheme. His strength and power allow him to line up inside when required but his speed, quickness and mobility also allow him to play one of the defensive end spots in the new scheme.

Washington is going to have to earn his job back and it won't be easy. There are several players battling him for a starting position and playing time, but Washington is going to be a tough candidate to beat out in this system if he is fully healthy and adjusts well. His size and lateral quickness will allow him to fill gaps against the run and Casteel could even utilize him as a pass rusher from the outside.

As a freshman, Washington collected 11.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage – including six sacks. The health issues caused those figures to diminish last season but there is little reason to believe that – given the new coaching staff's willingness to make sure everyone on the field is in proper shape in order to effectively run their schemes – Washington cannot return to the form that closer resembles what he displayed two seasons ago.

If Washington shows he has returned to the type of player Arizona fans witnessed in 2010, it will be a very big boost to the defensive side of the ball. Washington's increased maturity and experience on the field will go a long way, but his raw talent is second-to-none along the UA defensive line.

It all starts in the trenches and if the Wildcats receive a healthy Washington back on the field, teams are going to have a tough time figuring out how to handle the UA defensive line.

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