Washington football needs to find a way to get the incredible talent of Ngata on the field
When Ariel Ngata signed with Washington football, the former Army All-American showed a lot of promise. After redshirting his first season, and playing sparingly during the 2018 season, the four-star recruit is ready to break out. But the question is, where?
Ngata, an incredible athlete, took a handful of snaps at inside linebacker this spring, and with the lack of depth there after losing Ben Burr-Kirven and Tevis Bartlett, he could be a force coming downhill and in coverage. The depth chart at inside linebacker right now includes Brandon Wellington, Kyler Manu, Jackson Sirmon, and early enrollee Josh Calvert, with freshman Daniel Heimuli. It’s an intriguing possibility, but is it the best one?
He’s naturally an outside linebacker, and he looked outstanding at the position during the spring game. He recorded a “sack” during the team drills and seemed to be in the backfield on almost every other play. Ngata and the rest of the pass rush was hitting home consistently during the spring game, something the rush had a lot of trouble with during the 2018 season.
There’s a lot more depth at the position, but Ngata has a chance to maybe even be one of the starters at the outside linebacker spot. Joe Tryon came on strong towards the end of the year, while Ryan Bowman went through a bit of a sophomore slump, and Myles Rice really showed out during the spring game. Another guy who could be in contention to at least crack the two-deep roster over the summer is freshman Laiatu Latu. This group technically has the most experience on a defense that is replacing nine starters, and Ngata should be in serious contention for one of those BUCK spots.
While the idea of using Ngata as an inside linebacker just to get him on the field is incredibly intriguing in a group that has very little experience, it isn’t the best fit for him. Let him play on the edge, pin his ears back and get after the quarterback. He’s athletic enough to assist in the run game, while still making a huge impact as a pass rusher.
Bold prediction: Ariel Ngata will finish the year with a double-digit sack total, and make an All Pac-12 team.