2014 Class Positional Impact: Defensive Line

Today we continue our position-by-position look at how the players in the 2014 class will impact each position, where they fit into the depth as well as how they will effect things this fall and in the future. In this article we look at the impact of the six defensive linemen that signed with the Dawgs on February 5th...

Who Signed

DE/DT Kaleb McGary (Fife High School - Fife, Wa.)
DT/NT Greg Gaines (La Habra High School - La Habra, Ca.)
DE Jaylen Johnson (Centennial High School - Corona, Ca.)
DE Shane Bowman (Bellevue High School - Bellevue, Wa.)
DE Will Dissly (Boseman High School - Bozeman, Mt.)
DT Jaimie Bryant (Tumwater High School - Tumwater, Wa.)


Washington had Don Hill committed to them when Steve Sarkisian left and he opted to open things up when Chris Petersen was hired at Washington. The new staff was more than happy to let Hill go to USC, where he committed shortly after visiting there in December, deciding they wanted a different type of player to come in and play for them.

With no commitments and a depth problem, the new staff got to work and wound up accepting Bryant (who was committed to the Huskies and should have enrolled last year) as a greyshirt enrollee this spring.

Next, Petersen, Jeff Choate and Pete Kwiatkowski got to work on flipping Gaines and Johnson who were committed to them at Boise State, getting Bowman to switch his commitment from Oregon State to the Dawgs and then going all out to get McGary and Dissly into the boat.

In less than a month, the new staff put together a very solid defensive line class with size, length and versatility. You couldn't have asked for much more.

Scouting/Film Study

The first thing you see out of this group is versatility.

Almost all of them could wind up playing a different position if necessary, but most should stick along the defensive line and help the Dawgs continue the progress they've made in recent years up front.

McGary is one player who many scouts think could wind up playing along the offensive line. However, the coaching staff have told him he will get his first look on the defensive side of the ball.

At 6'6" and weighing in at 285 pounds, "Big Country" definitely lives up to his nickname. He's athletic and long and he loves to play defense preferring to "hit someone rather than be hit". His long arms and length could make him more of a factor at defensive end, but his size and strength could wind up dictating a move inside.

Gaines was a great get for the Huskies. Lots of big schools came calling late in the recruiting process for the talented interior player. He's got enough quickness to play the three-technique, pass-rushing defensive tackle spot, but with the Huskies needing a true nose tackle, someone who can anchor against the run, something Gaines does very well, and occupy blockers, he could be a great fit at nose tackle as well.

When you watch Johnson's film, you can easily see why the new staff did their level best to bring him along with them. First off, he's played against some of the best talent on a week-in and week-out basis playing for Corona (Ca.) Centennial and then throw in that he's got a big frame and the ability to play three of the four positions along the defensive line and you can see whey the staff really wanted him.

One thing that really stands out is Johnson's "get off" and the way he closes once he has the quarterback or the ball-carrier in his sights. He needs to add bulk and get stronger, but there's no doubting his abilities on the football field.

When I watch the film of both Bowman and Dissly, I see guys who have roughly the same qualities. They both have good size (6'4" and 240 pounds) and are athletic enough to be threats at multiple positions.

Bowman always brings his lunch pail and does the dirty work necessary to be successful while Dissly appears to be a bit on the raw side, but he oozes with potential. Both will need some time to acclimate to the college game, but both have the gritty mentality the coaches are looking for to go along with the size and athleticism to be solid players down the line.

Bryant was brought in by the old staff strictly on potential and the new staff saw that same high ceiling when they met with him over the course of December and January. He's got a huge frame going 6'5" and weighing in at 300 pounds currently and when you have a guy that size who can move like Bryant does, you have to give him a long look.

The big problem people had with Bryant was, with his size and athleticism, he should have dominated games, but that didn't happen. His motor has been a bit of a question, but with the year off, he had to get after it on his own and he's been able to put on 40 pounds and work out on his own. Sometimes having to wait makes you appreciate the things you have and helps you focus on the right things, that hope is that is the case with the uber-gifted player from the south Puget Sound.

Depth Chart/The Future

Unlike most positions, the defensive line is very fluid. You may have someone line up at one position on play and then another position the next. So, our best guess is that the new staff will employ a multiple front with a base 4-3. Here's how we see things shaking out with the new additions...

At nose tackle, Danny Shelton will be the starter and hold things down and he will likely be backed up by Elijah Qualls and Lawrence Lagafuaina, although Qualls has the requisite athleticism to play some three-technique and could line up next to Shelton instead. Gaines will have to fight for playing time and should wind up redshirting, but he's one of the players that might be forced into the rotation early on if the staff feels they need more bodies.

McGary will get his first look outside, but with his size and lack of explosiveness, I see him moving inside as well. He'll need to work on keeping his pad level low (what young player doesn't have to work on this?) and he'll likely wind up as a redshirt as well.

Tani Tupou will find a role with the new staff as well. He started to see his playing time increase as the season went along this past fall and with the lack of bodies, expect his role to increase if he shows the new staff he can handle the workload.

Johnson could eventually join all of them inside. At the very least, he's definitely going to be a hybrid type that can play inside or outside. I see him fitting into the same role that Joe Mathis did last year and will continue to fill.

One of the defensive end spots will be held down by Hauoli Kikaha, but opposite him and in the depth, there are questions.

Mathis and Marcus Farria were lauded by the old staff and they have all of the potential you could want, but they were limited in their impact last season and only Mathis saw regular playing time in the rotation.

Josh Shirley is an enigma. He can really get after the quarterback, but he struggles against the run and he frustrated the old staff with his tendency to run himself out of plays rather than holding the point of attack. As their frustration with him grew, his minutes and reps decreased. Here's hoping a fresh start with a new staff benefits both Shirley and the Dawgs.

So far, Jarett Finau and Damion Turpin have merely been bodies taking up space, but they will be given every chance to show what they can do this spring and fall. Both have long arms and nice size, but up to this point, that's pretty much all they have shown.

The Huskies have some bodies to work with, but it will be interesting to see how Choate and Kwiatkowski choose to use them. The new players should all wind up redshirting with Gaines having an outside shot at earning some playing time if the staff decides they need more bulk and bodies.

Expect them to continue to look for combinations during the 15 practices this spring and as we head into fall camp and for this to be a constant work in progress.

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