The Washington Huskies made huge strides in 2012 on the defensive side of the ball. Justin Wilcox came in and turned one of the worst defensive teams in college football from 2011 into a respectable unit in just one season. He will be looking to take the defense to the next level in 2013, though, and will need Josh Shirley to bring more pressure in the pass rush for them to get there.
Last season, Shirley tied for the team lead in with 6.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss while amassing 33 total tackles for the year. He came on late in the year, recording four of his sacks in the final three games of the regular season. If he continues that pace into next season, he will become a key piece of the Husky defense next fall and one of the premier sack-artists in the Pac 12.
He will have the benefit of help in the pass rush so offenses can’t load up blockers to his side. Defensive end Andrew Hudson matched Shirley’s production in 2012 with 6.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss but recorded 47 total tackles. He will have to be accounted for in the pass rush as well, leaving favorable matchups for one or the other. Hudson also came on strong down the stretch, notching 4.5 sacks in Washington’s final five games.
If Washington hopes to break through in the very tough Pac 12 North, they will need their defense to take another huge leap forward in 2013. A key piece of that will be generating a better pass rush, which is exactly what Josh Shirley can provide.