Washington’s Dominique Hampton, left, and Alphonzo Tuputala, top, combine for a tackle against Stanford during a game Sept. 24, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Washington’s Dominique Hampton, left, and Alphonzo Tuputala, top, combine for a tackle against Stanford during a game Sept. 24, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Analysis: Diving into UW’s defensive depth chart

The Huskies defense has something to prove with plenty of talented quarterbacks on the schedule this fall.

By Mike Vorel / The Seattle Times

When asked about the state of UW’s defense on Saturday, sixth-year linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio said: “I think we’re in a good spot. We have the key pieces we need to be a dominant force. Now it’s just a matter of being consistent and being as deep as possible.”

That’s easier said than done.

Particularly given the current Pac-12 landscape, and its captivating cadre of quarterbacks. The Huskies — whose own signal caller, Michael Penix Jr., is a Heisman Trophy candidate — will face USC’s Caleb Williams (the reigning Heisman winner), Oregon’s Bo Nix, Utah’s Cam Rising, Arizona’s Jayden de Laura and Oregon State’s DJ Uiagalelei this fall.

That’s bad news for a defense that was uncharacteristically torched by opposing passers in 2022.

But this isn’t the same UW defense, either.

Let’s dive into the Huskies’ defensive depth chart.

Defensive line

Tuli Letuligasenoa, sr., 6-1, 302, Concord, Calif.

Jacob Bandes, jr., 603, 314, Pittsburg, Calif.

Armon Parker, rs. fr., 6-3, 316, Detroit

Siaosi Finau, soph., 6-3, 279, Maui, Hawaii

***

Ulumoo Ale, sr., 6-6, 331, Tacoma

Faatui Tuitele, jr., 6-3, 314, Honolulu

Jayvon Parker, soph., 6-3, 304, Detroit

Elinneus Davis, fr., 6-2, 319, Moorhead, Minn.

Analysis: Continuity abounds on UW’s defensive line — where contributors Tuli Letuligasenoa, Ulumoo Ale, Faatui Tuitele, Jacob Bandes, and brothers Jayvon and Armon Parker all return. Letuligasenoa is a fringe All-Pac-12 performer, and Tuitele and Bandes are reliable role players as well.

But UW’s ceiling up front may be determined by the continued development of Ale and the Parker twins. At 6-6, 331, Ale — a converted offensive lineman — remains a physical monstrosity. And should he take significant strides in his second season on the defensive side, that would positively impact every other defensive position.

Likewise, co-defensive coordinator Chuck Morrell called the Parkers “two massive individuals on the interior that we can really build the future of our defense around.”

The question may not be “if,” but “when.”

Edge

Bralen Trice, jr., 6-4, 267, Phoenix

Voi Tunuufi, jr., 6-1, 249, South Jordan, Utah

Sekai Asoau-Afoa, jr., 6-4, 276, Tacoma

Anthony James, fr., 6-5, 264, Lavon, Texas

***

Zion Tupuola-Fetui, sr., 6-4, 251, Pearl City, Hawaii

Zach Durfee, soph, 6-5, 252, Dawson, Minn. (Sioux Falls)

Maurice Heims, soph., 6-5, 246, Hamburg, Germany

Lance Holtzclaw, rs. fr., 6-3, 224, Dorchester, Mass.

Analysis: UW needs more than two reliable edges.

So we’re ready to make a move.

Though he has been previously listed as a defensive lineman, expect Voi Tunuufi — who nabbed five sacks last season — to shift more permanently outside. He should pair well with Sioux Falls transfer Zach Durfee, who came on strong near the end of the spring. Heims, Holtzclaw and Asoau-Afoa are in the mix for rotational reps as well.

In Trice and “ZTF,” UW offers perhaps the west coast’s most intriguing pass rush pairing. But in the wake of Sav’ell Smalls’ recent transfer portal entry, the challenge is to continue developing productive depth.

Linebacker

Edefuan Ulofoshio, sr., 6-1, 234, Anchorage, Alaska

Ralen Goforth, graduate student, 6-2, 236, Long Beach, Calif. (USC)

Drew Fowler, jr., 6-1, 221, Bellevue

***

Alphonzo Tuputala, jr., 6-2, 238, Federal Way

Carson Bruener, jr., 6-2, 223, Woodinville

Deven Bryant, fr., 5-11, 217, Carson, Calif.

Jordan Whitney, fr., 6-2, 212, Oxnard, Calif.

Analysis: UW seems essentially settled with a core four linebackers, with Ulofoshio and Tuputala working as starters throughout the spring and Goforth and Bruener rotating in with the second unit. It’s possible that Goforth — who started 17 games at USC, and impressed in April — could push for a starting spot. But regardless, expect all four to log significant snaps this season.

The x-factor here might be Ulofoshio’s effectiveness after missing parts of two seasons with significant injuries.

“That group looks pretty good on paper, and they’re performing on the field,” DeBoer said of his linebackers. “So I really like where we’re at with the growth of that group, compared to where we were at a year ago and even late in the season.”

Cornerback

Elijah Jackson, soph., 6-1, 191., Carson, Calif.

Thaddeus Dixon, jr., 6-1, 190, Los Angeles

Davon Banks, soph., 5-11, 182, San Jacinto, Calif.

***

Jabbar Muhammad, jr., 5-10, 185, DeSoto, Texas (Oklahoma State)

Jaivion Green, soph., 6-2, 197, Houston

Caleb Presley, fr., 6-0, 175, Federal Way

Analysis: UW’s cornerbacks room looked a whole lot different this spring, with Jordan Perryman out of eligibility and Mishael Powell shifting primarily to the “husky” nickel spot. Oklahoma State transfer Jabbar Muhammad — who produced 10 pass breakups last season, six more than any Husky — unsurprisingly spent most of the spring as a starter and should bring stability this fall.

On the other side, both sophomore Elijah Jackson and Thaddeus Dixon enjoyed sensational springs and should compete for starting reps. Morrell said “if I had to say I’m really proud of one individual on defense this entire spring it’s Elijah Jackson. We got very little out of him last year, wasn’t healthy for most of the year. He is playing veteran savvy football right now. We need that.”

Freshman corners Curley Reed and Leroy Bryant will also be added to the mix this summer.

“Husky” nickel

Mishael Powell, jr., 6-1, 206, Seattle

Tristan Dunn, rs. fr., 6-4, 189, Sumner

Dyson McCutcheon, soph., 5-11, 183, Claremont, Calif.

Safety

Asa Turner, sr., 6-3, 206, Carlsbad, Calif.

Kamren Fabiculanan, jr., 6-1, 197, Camarillo, Calif.

Makell Esteen, soph., 6-1, 178, Hawthorne, Calif.

Diesel Gordon, fr., 6-0, 176, Arlington, Texas

***

Dominique Hampton, sr., 6-3, 218, Glendale, Ariz.

Vince Nunley, soph., 6-1, 179, Oakland, Calif.

Analysis: Powell’s move to “husky” this spring coincided with veterans Dominique Hampton and Kamren Fabiculanan both shifting back to safety. UW should offer ample experience at both spots, with senior safety starter Asa Turner returning as well.

But can any develop into true difference-makers? Hampton is an impressive athlete who has yet to settle into a permanent position, and Turner’s tackling issues have been well documented (though he also touts an encyclopedic knowledge of the defense and plus ball skills).

One other player who could push into the rotation is sophomore Vince Nunley, an explosive athlete who missed the 2022 season with an injury. It will be interesting to see whether Dunn — a rangy 6-4, 189-pound defensive back with excellent leaping ability — ultimately settles at “husky” or safety as well.

Kick returner

Giles Jackson, sr., 5-9, 176, Antioch, Calif. (Michigan)

Cameron Davis, jr., 6-0, 206, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Punt returner

Jalen McMillan, jr., 6-1, 189, Fresno, Calif.

Giles Jackson, sr., 5-9, 176, Antioch, Calif. (Michigan)

Placekicker

Grady Gross, soph., 5-11, 212, Scottsdale, Ariz. OR

Addison Shrock, soph., 6-1, 181, Bellingham

Punter

Jack McCallister, soph., 6-0, 213, Edmonds

Adam Saul, soph., 6-6, 192, Gurnee, Ill.

Long snapper

Jaden Green, jr., 5-11, 219, Gilbert, Ariz.

Alex Froelich, soph., 6-2, 210, South Pasadena, Calif.

Caleb Johnston, rs. fr., 5-11, 240, Ripon, Calif.

Analysis: UW is holding ongoing competitions for its starting placekicker and punter, with each attempt for kickers Grady Gross and Addison Shrock and punters Jack McCallister and Adam Saul being logged this spring and summer. These competitions, truly, are strictly business; the players with superior practice results will earn starting roles.

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