As the Washington Huskies prepare to being the Chris Petersen era in Seattle and attempt to break through in the Pac-12 title race, they will be leaning on an experienced and talented defense to get them there. The Huskies are replacing some major stars on offense, so while they break in the new guys, it will be up to a stacked defense to step up and win some games this fall. For that to happen, Washington needs a big year out of defensive tackle Danny Shelton.
The 6-foot-1, 327-pound senior is far from the flashiest player on the Washington defense but the Dawgs don’t need him to be. There are plenty of other high-flying defenders who will make the highlight reel for Washington but Shelton is the mauler who does work on the inside which allows all those flashy players to operate freely. He’s a big-bodied space-eater in the defensive interior that demands attention and his strong presence inside will key so much of what UW wants to do in 2014.
That isn’t to say the big guy isn’t productive. He finished seventh on the team in 2013 with 59 tackles and had 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and three pass breakups. In the Fight Hunger Bowl against the BYU Cougars, he was a one-man wrecking crew, recording seven total tackles, six of them solo. He was rewarded for his efforts by earning all-conference honorable mention last season and was included as a preseason All-American by Sporting News.
While most of the Washington defensive plays next season will be made by someone other than Danny Shelton, a good majority of those plays will be made because of him. His ability to disrupt and occupy blockers will be pivotal for the Huskies’ defense this season and a major key to the team finding success in 2014.