Washington Huskies defensive improvement begins with stopping the run

If the Washington Huskies defense is going to take a step up in 2021, they need to do a better job against the run. Fortunately, UW has an experienced and talented group of defensive lineman and linebackers.

Last season the Washington Huskies led the Pac-12 and were 13th in the nation (2nd in Power-5), allowing 185 passing yards per game. It would be a great feather in their cap if their rushing defense was more effective.

During the 2020 season, outside of the Arizona game, the defense allowed over 191 rushing yards per contest in the other three games. Overall, UW was 59th against the run among FBS schools. If the opponents can run the ball and control the clock, they don’t need to pass as much.

Washington plays somewhat of an unconventional defensive alignment; they use two down linemen, four linebackers, and five defensive backs. Their defensive line consists of a defensive tackle and nose tackle. Where many teams have defensive ends, the Huskies outside linebackers also work as defensive ends.

They’ll have to succeed without two men who could have helped turn the tide, and . Latu injured his neck last fall. Consequently, he did not play in any of the Huskies’ four 2020 games. Last month the injury forced him to retire from football.

Tupuola-Fetui had a breakout in 2020 and was a Third-team All-American. During the second week of spring practice, ZTF tore his Achillies. As a result, he will miss most, if not all, of the 2021 season. But there is plenty of talent to compensate.


Improvement against the run starts with front six. Fortunately, most of last season’s group returns for 2020. Nose tackle Sam Taimani played in 13 games over the previous two seasons, including four starts last year. He’ll team up with 305-pound junior DT as the first line of defense in the middle.

Behind them are two experienced MLBs, and Second-team All-Pac-12 selection . At times Ulofoshio was dominating last season. Improving his contingency in 2021 will significantly boost his draft stock.

Should teams try to go around the outside, they’ll have to contend with senior and impressive redshirt freshman , who replaces ZTF. Bowman skipped a likely NFL draft selection for one more season with the Washington Huskies in 2021.

There is also a deep set of backups for most of these positions. If the starters can stop giving up big yards on the ground, which puts their opponents in short-yardage situations, Washington can have one of the best defenses in the country.

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