Washington football is poised to have a drastic turnaround at inside linebacker in 2020
During the 2019 football season, the inside linebacker position was the weakest point of Washington football’s notorious defense. It got a jolt later in the season when Edefuan Ulofoshio took over at the position full time, and he recorded 36 tackles over the final four games of the season.
During the offseason, Ulofoshio was put on scholarship, and head coach Jimmy Lake continues to sing his praises every chance he gets. He showed off what his ceiling can be during the Huskies’ 2019 win at Oregon State, when he was named the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Week. With a full year as the starter, with the energy and speed he plays with, this could be Washington’s best defense in a very long time.
It looks like Jackson Sirmon will be the other starter across from Ulofoshio, and the group of redshirt sophomores (including MJ Tafisi) are the most experienced players at the position for the Huskies. Sirmon has a very high football IQ, and moves very well at close to 240 pounds. In situations where Pete Kwiatkowski wants to bring a blitz, Sirmon will probably end up in coverage while Ulofoshio comes on a blitz.
Note: Tafisi is the biggest question mark in the rotation this season, after a scary injury at Arizona ended his 2019 season.
Behind the sophomores is a group of redshirt freshmen that are itching to play. The two most exciting prospects are Daniel Heimuli (or “Danny Hammer” to most Husky fans), and Josh Calvert. Both guys were highly touted four-star recruits out of high school, and have unlimited potential. Calvert’s knee injury during summer camp in 2019 derailed his freshman year, when he was on track to start, but both he and Heimuli should find their way onto the field in 2020, whether it be on special teams, at middle linebacker, or both. Both guys are the complete package at linebacker, with power, speed, and incredible field awareness. They’re no doubt the future of the position for the Washington defense, but they aren’t the only excellent linebackers from the 2019 class.
We can’t forget about Alphonzo Tuputala, who was the first of the group on the field in 2019. He’s dropped a lot of weight since he got to campus, and has a very similar skillset to Heimuli and Calvert.
Outside of quarterback, this is the Huskies’ most inexperienced position group, but they’re very promising and have a lot of room to grow. However, Husky fans should see an upgrade in talent over the 2019 season, and it will no longer be the weakness of the defense.