As the Washington Huskies prepare to begin the Chris Petersen era in Seattle, they will be looking to build off their most successful season of the last decade and make a run at a Pac-12 North Division title. To do so, they’ll need to overcome some of the best teams in the country with a roster that is coming into its prime. However, they’ll have to manage without one of their senior defensive linemen as Josh Shirley has reportedly left the program.
Shirley came the UW as a former high school All-American who originally signed with the UCLA Bruins. But before he played a snap for the Bruins, he was dismissed from the program for an incident that got Shirley charged with suspicion of felony theft, though he pleaded down to a misdemeanor. Though he was originally recruited as a linebacker, Shirley was converted to a defensive end to use his athleticism off the edge in pass-rushing situations.
As a redshirt freshman in 2011, Shirley recorded 8.5 sacks in seven starts as he showcased the speed that made him such a highly sough-after recruit. But his lack of size (6-foot-3, 228 pounds) hindered his ability to be an every-down defensive player and he saw his role on the team, and subsequently his production, dip over the last two seasons. Last year, he recorded just three sacks (all against the Illinois Fighting Illini) and finished with 13 total tackles in 12 games playing in Washington’s special pass-rushing package.
There was no questioning the raw ability of Shirley when he arrived at UW but it never translated consistently on the field. While he likely was destined for a limited role once again in 2014, the Huskies could have used an extra pass-rusher for the defensive rotation. Now, they’ll likely lean on their incoming freshmen more heavily than they originally planned as Shirley returns closer to home to finish his career.