Four questions for UW Huskies defense this offseason

A post-spring breakdown of the Huskies’ depth chart on defense and special teams, with a key question for each position.

For the first time since 2002, the Huskies are expected to enter the 2017 season ranked in the top 10 of the preseason AP poll. Already, they’re ranked No. 6 in the Fox Sports post-spring top 25, No. 8 by Sports Illustrated and No. 9 by ESPN.

Here is a post-spring breakdown of the Huskies’ depth chart on defense and special teams, with a key question for each position:

DEFENSIVE LINE

End
Vita Vea, jr., 6-5, 344
Jason Scrempos, so., 6-6, 275
Jared Pulu, so., 6-4, 270*

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Tackle
Greg Gaines, jr., 6-2, 321
Shane Bowman, jr., 6-4, 308
Ricky McCoy, so., 6-2, 292

End
Jaylen Johnson, jr., 6-3, 287
Levi Onwuzurike, rs-fr., 6-3, 274
John Clark, so., 6-4, 279**

Incoming freshman
Ali Gaye, 6-6, 276

Key question: Who emerges in the second wave?

The Huskies are in great shape with the first line of the D-line. Vita Vea and Greg Gaines are both future NFL players — perhaps as early as next year — and Jaylen Johnson is a breakout candidate this fall. Behind them are a lot of unknowns. Junior Shane Bowman gained a bunch of weight this winter (he’s up to 308) and played mostly inside this spring with Gaines recovering from a weight-room shoulder/pectoral injury. Bowman had one sack in the spring preview scrimmage and could be the line’s top reserve this season. Chris Petersen singled out of progress made by redshirt freshman Levi Onwuzurike, and Jason Scrempos — limited in the past by a shoulder injury — capped a nice spring with four tackles and a sack in the scrimmage. Ricky McCoy and Jared Pulu each forced fumbles in the scrimmage. McCoy has long been touted for his potential, but he has a ways to go to realize it.

*walk-on
**knee injury to sideline Clark for 2017 season.

LINEBACKER

Buck
Connor O’Brien, sr., 6-3, 224
Benning Potoa’e, so., 6-3, 270
Myles Rice, rs-fr., 6-3, 243
Jusstis Warren, so., 6-2, 243

Middle
Azeem Victor, sr., 6-3, 222
D.J. Beavers, so., 6-0, 227
Sean Constantine, sr., 6-2, 231
Brandon Wellington, so., 5-11, 223
Jake Wambaugh, jr., 6-1, 221*

Weak-side
Keishawn Bierria, sr., 6-1, 230
Ben Burr-Kirven, jr., 6-0, 221
Camilo Eifler, rs-fr., 6-1, 219
Kyler Manu, so., 6-1, 233
Matt Preston, jr., 6-2, 230*

Strong-side
Tevis Bartlett, jr., 6-2, 229
Amandre Williams, 6-2, 230
Bryce Sterk, so., 6-4, 256
Ryan Bowman, rs-fr., 6-0, 267*

Incoming freshmen
Ariel Ngata, 6-2, 202
Joe Tryon, 6-5, 238

Key question: Who steps in as UW’s next great pass-rusher?

This, you might notice, is the same question posed before the start of spring practice — and it remains the most important one for the defense overall. Tevis Bartlett helped answer part of the question. He was the most consistent pass-rusher this spring, and you can lock him in as the starting strong-side ‘backer for the Sept. 1 opener at Rutgers. The Buck…

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