Saying Washington football had inside linebacker troubles in 2019 is an understatement, and the Huskies are in great position to bounce back in 2020
After losing the nation’s leading tackler in Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington football fans were expecting a bit of a drop off in inside linebacker play, but the difference between 2018 and 2019 was much steeper than most fans were expecting. Between the two inside linebackers who started the majority of games during the 2019 season, they recorded 112 total tackles. For reference, Burr-Kirven recorded 176 total tackles in 2018.
Both of those 2019 starters were seniors, and the most experienced players behind them were redshirt freshmen Jackson Sirmon, Edefuan Ulofoshio and MJ Tafisi. The Huskies also brought in a lot of talent at the position in the 2019 recruiting class with Daniel Heimuli, Josh Calvert, Alphonzo Tuputala, and Miki Ah You. After redshirting last season, all of them are going to have a shot in the rotation.
Right now, it seems like Ulofoshio and Sirmon should be penciled in as the starters, especially after Jimmy Lake put the former on scholarship during the winter quarter. A lot can change (assuming things go back to normal) between now and September, and linebackers coach Bob Gregory has a lot to consider, assuming a normal summer camp is held.
The biggest piece in the puzzle is Calvert, who looked to be on track to start as a true freshman in 2019 until a knee injury derailed his year. If Calvert can show the same athleticism and explosiveness that caught the coaching staff’s eye, he should at the very least crack the depth chart.
Heimuli is another wildcard who deserves a long look, and could potentially end up with a starting spot. By the end of 2019, Washington was rotating between five linebackers on a regular basis, and we could end up seeing six or seven players in the rotation in 2020, if you include Tuputala, who played in four games in 2019, and Ah You.
Well… not really that bold considering what I’ve been told about the way things would’ve shaped up during the 2019 season, Calvert will take one of the starting spots by the end of summer. Ulofoshio will have the other to start the year, but he won’t hold it through the whole season. At some point during the season, Heimuli will overtake him. Sirmon and Tafisi will still play big roles in the defense, and probably rotate through regularly, but the upside of Calvert and Heimuli will put them over the top.
The pair of redshirt freshman are big, strong, fast, and will be physically ready to go. The coaching staff redshirted Heimuli to make sure he would gain some weight and be ready to compete at the college level, and fans shouldn’t be surprised if the pair of freshmen make a huge impact in 2020.