Joe Mathis, a junior defensive end, has missed UW's last three games with an unspecified injury.

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Joe Mathis, the Huskies’ regular starting defensive end, is making progress from an unspecified injury and could return against Arizona on Saturday.

Mathis, a 6-foot-2, 252-pound junior, has sat out the last three games. He suited up for pregame warmups before UW’s loss to Stanford on Saturday but did not play in the game.

“He would’ve been a guy who could’ve really helped us a week ago (against Stanford), but I think it was the right thing to do to get him a little bit more healthy,” UW defensive line coach Jeff Choate said.

“The one thing he brings is, he just plays with a different level of intensity,” Choate added. “And I think that that’s really important for our defense. It’s almost like what we lose when we lose Azeem (Victor) — that edge in terms of the physical way he plays. Joe has that same type of mentality, so when he’s right physically and he can go, he brings a different element to our defense.”

In four games, Mathis has 20 tackles, including one sack and four tackles for loss.

“He played 23 snaps against Boise and he had a sack, a forced fumble, a recovered fumble and three TFLs. That’s a lot of production in a short amount of time,” Choate said.

With Mathis sidelined, sophomore Will Dissly and redshirt freshman Greg Gaines made their first career starts on UW’s defensive line against Stanford — the 17th and 18th different players to start at least one game on UW’s defense this season. A week earlier, redshirt freshman Jaylen Johnson made his starting debut on UW’s D-line.

“I think those guys have competed well,” Choate said of the line in general. “They take pride in doing their job and understanding up front that we’re a different group than we were a year ago in term of how we’re built. But we’re still pretty dang effective. We’ve done a nice job stopping the run and that’s our primary objective.

“When we get into the nickel packages, hey, we’ve got to try eat up a couple double teams inside and turn Travis (Feeney) and Cory (Littleton) loose on the edge, and our guys have embraced that. I’ve been really pleased with their competitive spirit. … And you’ve seen young guys (emerge): Will Dissly had a good game last week and played a little bit more. I think Jaylen’s coming along. A guy probably not playing as much as he deserves to is Damion Turpin; he’s been having some good practices and I probably need to get him some more reps in the game.”

The Huskies were without four regular starters on defense to open against Stanford: Mathis, Travis Feeney, Keishawn Bierria and safety Brian Clay, who was serving a first-half suspension related to a targeting penalty a week earlier. Feeney and Bierria both played through injuries. Feeney said Tuesday his shoulder is improving.

Junior cornerback Kevin King left the game in the second half with a leg injury. He is day to day this week.