4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE WASHINGTON DEFENSE
– It’s Washington, so the defense is going to reload in a hurry and be terrific, but it loses a LOT of talent. The D led the Pac-12 in yards and points allowed, giving up just 306 yards and 16 points per game, but six of the top seven tacklers are done, nine starters are gone, and everyone who made an interception is somewhere else.
– It all starts with the front three stepping up and rocking again after losing some mainstays. Senior Benning Potoa’e beefed up to 285 pounds and will start to work up front after spending time as a large linebacker.
6-2, 318-pound Tuli Letuligasenoa should be the next great UW anchor – at least that’s the hope – and 287-pound Levi Onwuzurike is a veteran who can be fine at one end. 322-pound redshirt freshman Sam Taimani is going to be a large presence somewhere.
– 176-tackle Ben Burr-Kirven is gone off the linebacking corps, but 223-pound Brandon Wellington is back after seeing plenty of starting action, and 216-pound sophomore Ariel Ngata is an interesting talent for the outside. With Potoa’e moving to the line, 6-5, 266-pound Joe Tryon is the bulk in the corps. Someone, though, has to step up and fill in the massive hole left by Burr-Kirven.
– Washington loses a ton of really, really good players in the secondary. Safety Taylor Rapp was picked up by the Rams in the second round, corner Byron Murphy was selected by the Cardinals, and 56-tackle JoJo McIntosh is gone from his safety spot.
So what’s left?
Myles Bryant is a great one at one spot somewhere in the secondary – most likely at safety – and as always, there’s talent waiting in the wings. The corner situation won’t be a huge issue after a little time – juniors Elijah Molden and Keith Taylor are veterans – and Brandon McKinney should put up big numbers at one safety gig.