Fall Preview: Defensive Line

The defensive line is in as good a shape as it's been in some time, yet there are plenty of spots open for competition and youth continues to be a yearly theme. It's a scary thought for UW Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt, as he was hoping his recruiting effort for the 2009 and 2010 recruiting classes would pay some dividends this year - and they might. But not as well as it could have been.

Defensive Tackles: Cameron Elisara (Sr.); De'Shon Matthews (Sr.); Alameda Ta'amu (Jr.); Semisi Tokolahi (So.); Chris Robinson (RFr.); Lawrence Lagafuaina (Fr.); Sione Potoae (Fr.)

Gone is Tyrone Duncan, who transferred to Montana. And while on the surface that doesn't sound like that big a loss, he did play in six games in 2009 and would have added some experience and depth to a line that is likely to play both true freshmen due to Holt's desire to rotate and keep as many fresh players going along the DL as possible.

Another misleading part of this group is the fact that Elisara will probably play as much as a DE as he will inside. Some of that will have to do with the lack of depth; the rest will probably have more to do with scheme. Holt is getting comfortable enough with his personnel that he's bound to get more exotic with his schemes and coverages in 2010. That might mean more odd fronts or the in-vogue 3-3-5 stack that appears to be very effective against the read option - provided you have plenty of players that are sound in reading their keys and can run all day long.

That means there's only one true inside DT, and that's Matthews - but he's always been an undersized 3-technique and has usually played behind Elisara. More than likely, if Holt is playing an even front, it'll be Alameda Ta'amu and Semisi Tokolahi in the middle, with Elisara and Talia Crichton out wide.

It may be a coincidence that all four of those player share some Polynesian heritage, but regardless - the group works well together, they communicate effectively and they play for each other.

Lagafuaina and Potoae have already shown in the informal workouts that they aren't immune to pulling in their share of the load already. They came in knowing there was a great chance they would be counted on to contribute, and they are right. The best thing about the combo is that they work well together like Ta'amu and Tokolahi - their body types lend themselves perfectly to the nose and 3-technique, respectively.
Defensive Ends: Kalani Aldrich (Jr.); Everrette Thompson (Jr.); Peter Follmer (Jr.)#; Pete Galbraith (Jr.)#; Conrad Remington (Jr.)#; Talia Crichton (So.); Andrew Hudson (Fr.); Hauoli Jamora (Fr.); Brent Williams (Fr.)

# = walk-on

This group has numbers, but no one standout performer. Talia Crichton returns as the one end that played consistently in 2009. Aldrich, who has been plagued by knee troubles during his UW career, played seven games in 2009, and Thompson played 10 - but he was sidelined for all of spring with a foot injury. Aldrich didn't play in the spring either. Add to their woes the matriculation of all-time sacks leader Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, senior Darrion Jones, and the expulsion of sophomore Andru Pulu - and this group is really up in the air.

The upside is that Thompson looks to be rounding back into shape physically, and Aldrich appears to be in the best shape he's been in before his knee started acting up a couple of years ago. They HAVE to get production from these two guys to compliment Crichton, or else it will be up to the true frosh to help shoulder the burden. The positive to be taken from this situation is that both have played, and can be productive when healthy. Keeping them upright will be the biggest task.

The newcomers are gifted. Both Hudson and Jamora look to have the bodies ready-made to handle a full Pac-10 season from the jump. Expect them to get every opportunity to compete for playing time. Only Brent Williams - who physically resembles more the WSU speed ends of nearly a decade ago in D.D. Acholonu and Isaac Brown before they grew into their bodies - should redshirt in order to work on his size and strength.

The 'X' factor here is going to be the inclusion of the Huskies' latest addition - Josh Shirley. The former UCLA product will start his Husky career competing for an outside linebacker spot, but considering how effective he was with his hand down in high school, he could very easily work himself into the mix on the line. The coaches will want to get Shirley on the field as soon as possible, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to put him in with very specific, pared-down packages where his sole responsibility would be to kill the quarterback. In watching Kenny Rowe from Oregon last year, I could easily see Shirley end up in a very similar role in no time.

Fall Preview: Quarterbacks

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