Face the University of Washington defense and the one thing you could always count on was a monster in the middle.
For a decade now, the Huskies have provided one NFL-bound defensive lineman after another who owned the trenches.
From Danny Shelton to Vita Vea to Greg Gaines, and now Levi Onwuzurike, who's headed in their pro football direction, this is a position traditionally rich in talent and unmistakably reliant for dominant play.
With Onwuzurike opting out of his senior season last week to prepare for the draft, the UW finds itself in urgent need of finding the next D-line dominator.
Sophomore Tuli Letuligasenoa should step into the departed Texan's shoes and become the new starter. Whether he can become that human wrecking ball the Huskies are known for up front is unclear.
If Letuligaseno is a set-up man to begin — as in the player who does the dirty work and ties up others on the line while his partner gets all of the sack glory — someone else will need to step up and reap the rewards.
He needs to be another D'Marco Farr, who replaced the great Steve Emtman in 1992, or another Vea, who stepped in for Shelton in more modern times, and do great things.
That said, we continue to pick a starting lineup for Washington's coming season, giving new coach Jimmy Lake another opinion on who his top 24 players should be. Without question, Lake needs to come up with a smart solution for this vacancy.
DT candidates: Josiah Bronson, 6-foot-3, 298, senior; Tuli Letuligasenoa, 6-2, 311, sophomore; Draco Bynum, 6-4, 265, sophomore; Noa Ngalu, 6-1, 290, redshirt freshman; Sam Taimani, 6-2, 327, sophomore; Jacob Bandes, 6-2, 317, redshirt freshman; Faatui Tuitele, 6-3, 288, redshirt freshman.
DT starting experience: Josiah Bronson, 11 starts.
Our selection: With Letuligasenoa taking Onwuzurike's first-unit job and likely needing time to get comfortable as the main man on the D-Line, we turn to Bronson to assume the headliner role initially. He's a sixth-year player who could have slacked off during the pandemic or claimed to be a little burned out after having been a collegian for so long. Yet Bronson appears to be as hungry as ever, as these Twitter posts demonstrate, driven to make himself fare more bigger and stronger. Unlike the others before him in this job, he's considered an NFL sleeper rather than a sure thing. Here's his chance to significantly up his stock.
Other options: Taki Taimani is another possibility for prime-time play at some point, but he likely will need to wait for Bronson to graduate to draw a starting assignment. He and Letuligasenoa are known as "the Twins," so he might be a year away from joining the first unit. Bandes come with a huge reputation and a year of weight lifting under his belt, and could slide in as a disruptive player. Ngalu and Tuitele aren't as big as the other guys, but they're physical enough to draw plenty of playing time. Bynum looks undersized for a UW down lineman and will need bulk up.
Greatest Husky DT: Steve Emtman. Hands down, he's the greatest Washington player ever. At any position. He led the Huskies to national championship. No one has been more dominant. He started 27 games — and his teams went 24-3 with him on the field, with 16 blowout victories (three touchdowns or more). He's the only No. 1 overall NFL draft pick at any position in school history and no other UW player has been higher than seventh in modern times. He more often was double- and even triple-teamed because teams so feared what he might do to their offenses.
Other legendary UW DTs: Reggie Rogers, who went from UW basketball player to outside linebacker to second-team AP All-American at DT on the 1985 Orange Bowl winner; Doug Martin, who was a second-team AP All-American for the 1978 Rose Bowl team; Fletcher Jenkins, who was a second-team AP All-American for the 1982 Rose Bowl team; Danny Shelton, who was a first-team AP All-American in 2014; Dennis Brown, a third-team AP All-American in 1989 and the starter ahead of Emtman; and Vita Vea and Greg Gaines, Morris Trophy winners.
The UW Starting Lineup:
Left tackle — Victor Curne
Left guard — Ulumoo Ale
Center — Luke Wattenberg
Right guard — Corey Luciano
Right tackle — Henry Bainivalu
Tight end — Cade Otton
Tight end — Jacob Kizer
Wide receiver — Puka Nacua
Wide receiver — Ty Jones
Running back — Richard Newton
Outside linebacker — Laiatu Latu
Defensive tackle — Tuli Letuligasenoa
Defensive tackle — Josiah Bronson
Outside linebacker —
Inside linebacker — Edefuan Ulofoshio
Inside linebacker — Miki Ah You
Nickel back —
Strong safety —
Free safety —
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