Washington Football has lost some huge pieces along the interior of the defensive line, but they have some big-time players who can step in and do the job
Over the last few seasons, Washington football has cranked out some excellent NFL talent along the defensive line, including the 12th overall pick and 2017-18 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Vita Vea, and Philadelphia Eagles D-tackle Elijah Qualls.
This year, we should see Greg Gaines get drafted on Day Two, and Jaylen Johnson hopefully earns himself a spot on a roster as a UDFA or as a late-round pick. This is a lot of NFL talent out the door over the last few seasons, but the Huskies are primed to replace them without skipping a beat.
Already Making an Impact
Levi Onwuzurike has made a huge leap forward during his sophomore season, putting together a great season adding more QB pressures, and totaling 34 tackles, 6.5 for loss and three sacks. He’s a prime candidate to take another huge jump during his junior season.
He really flashed in the Rose Bowl, hitting home for a sack while working against one of the better interior linemen in the 2019 NFL Draft in Ohio State’s Michael Jordan.
Waiting in the Wings
Chris Petersen signed his best recruiting class ever in 2018, and among that class are two excellent, highly touted defensive line prospects in Tuli Letuligasenoa and Sam Taimani. The four-star prospects both redshirted during their freshman season, with Taimani only playing in one game and recording one tackle. Expect both of these guys to be a big part of the rotation along the line next year.
Instant Impact Freshmen
Coach Petersen and defensive line coach Ikaika Malloe knew this was coming, and have done everything in their power to address their needs along the defensive line. And how did they do it? By going out and signing two top fifty defensive tackles, in Hawaii’s Defensive Player of the Year Faatui Tuitele, and Jacob Bandes, who recorded 137 total tackles, 14 sacks and 39 tackles for loss during his career at Pittsburg (Calif.) High School. Bandes was rated as highly as the 28th overall recruit in the country.
But the Huskies didn’t stop there, they went out and signed a very intriguing, raw prospect in Sama Paama. Paama is a 6’4, 336 pounder out of Kaimuki (Hawaii) and the craziest part is he’s still only 16 years old. He will most likely redshirt during his true freshman season, but he has a lot of room to grow and develop with all the stars around him.
Last but not least, Washington also grabbed Noa Ngalu out of Menlo-Atherton (Calif.) High.
The three-star prospect has a lot of room for growth and development, and will probably also be a redshirt during his first year on Montlake. But he’s an exciting player to watch in the future, who can make a huge impact. During his high school career, he recorded 224 total tackles, 52.5 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks. He could definitely fill a similar role that Onwuzurike did during his first season as a pocket mover and someone who is a rotational piece to get pressure on the quarterback.
Reason to Worry?
This stat isn’t a surprising one, considering all the key pieces the Huskies are losing this year, but with this impressive collection of talent on the d-line, Washington’s reign of dominance on defense should continue.