Washington football lost their top edge rusher to the NFL Draft, and they could be more exciting at the position in 2020
After Washington football’s 2019 sack leader declared for the NFL Draft, the question became who would step in to replace him? Well, the Huskies have a room full of talent ready to step in. If the season were to start tomorrow, the two penciled in starters should be sophomore Laiatu Latu, and senior Ryan Bowman. However, don’t expect the depth chart to stay the same throughout the season, and potentially throughout fall camp.
The biggest story of fall camp (outside of the quarterback battle)will be five-star freshman Sav’ell Smalls, and where he fits into the rotation. With extra time to get himself physically ready for college ball, Smalls should expect to be a bigger part of the rotation compared to if the season started on time. The talented freshman will be a perfect fit across from Latu, and they could form the Pac-12’s most dynamic edge rush duo. Don’t be surprised if he’s a full-time starter by the end of October (assuming the season starts then).
The next piece of the puzzle is Zion Tupuola-Fetui. The sophomore outside linebacker from Hawaii has been one of the coaching staff’s favorites since he arrived on campus and this season will be huge for him. While he might not have the same ceiling as a pass rusher that Latu or Smalls does, he’s going to be at the very least an excellent run defender and edge setter, who can keep a quarterback in the pocket while running contain. He’ll definitely get some snaps on passing downs as well, and has the raw power to be an effective bull rusher on the edge.
The last two names at the position are a bit of a mystery, but both players have very high ceilings. Jordan Lolohea will be an interesting name to keep an eye on, as the freshman outside linebacker is returning from a two-year mission and enrolled at Washington in January. He’ll definitely have a role in the defense, but that will be a question that can only be answered once practices get underway. The other is redshirt freshman Bralen Trice.
Trice spent the majority of his first year on campus putting on weight, and if he was able to do that while retaining the quick-twitch off the edge. A raw athlete coming out of high school, Trice has plenty of room to grow, and could be a revelation for Jimmy Lake and his staff during the 2020 campaign.
Latu and Smalls will have a combined 15 sacks in what will most likely be an eight-game season. Both have first-round potential, and with one of the nation’s best groups of defensive tackles freeing them up, they’ll get a lot of one on one opportunities against opposing tackles. This will help the Huskies in the recruiting world as well, showing 2021 prospect J.T. Tuimoloau he’d have an opportunity to make an instant impact on the edge, as well as future highly-rated EDGE prospects like Jayden Wayne how they can be developed in Pete Kwiatkowski’s defense.