UW’s defensive line just lost its senior standout.
Levi Onwuzurike — a 6-foot-3, 288-pound defensive tackle and 2019 first-team All-Pac-12 performer — has opted out of his final season of eligibility and declared for the 2021 NFL draft, he announced on social media on Thursday.
Onwuzurike is UW’s second defensive player to opt out of the 2020 (or possibly 2021) campaign, joining redshirt junior outside linebacker Joe Tryon. It’s possible senior Elijah Molden could eventually join that list as well.
“To all my teammates, who are also my brothers, I just want to say thank you for the best college experience,” Onwuzurike said in part during a video released on Twitter. “The relationships we built over the years will for sure last a lifetime. From everything we’ve done — from roasting to fighting to long nights out to studying, practicing, lifting, gaming and movie nights — it’s always been us together. I love you boys.
“To Husky Nation, thank you for all the love and support you’ve shown me and my teammates. From landing in Seatac to playing in Husky Stadium, your passion for the game has always been evident.
“To coach (Chris Petersen), coach (Ikaika) Malloe, coach (Jimmy) Lake, coach (Pete Kwiatkowski) and the entire coaching staff, I just want to say thank you for the opportunity to excel at the college level. Thank you for repeatedly instilling characteristics and lessons that will continue to help me develop as a man and as an athlete.
“With all that being said, I am confident and ready to step into the next phase of life. I’ve decided to forgo this season and declare for the 2021 NFL draft. I’ll be dedicating the rest of my time to focusing on being the most dominant player in the NFL. These decisions are never simple, but trust your heart, stay confident and consistent, and devote yourself to getting better results. Much love and go Dawgs.”
In 39 career games, Onwuzurike — a fifth-year senior from Allen, Texas, and 2020 Athlon Sports preseason first-team All-American — compiled 95 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and seven sacks. That included a career-high 45 tackles as well as six tackles for loss, two sacks and a blocked punt in the 2019 season. He leaves UW with an undergraduate degree in sociology.
Onwuzurike was considered a top-100 prospect in the 2020 draft, but opted initially to return for his fifth and final season this fall. He’s currently ranked the No. 3 and No. 4 defensive tackle in the 2021 class by ESPN draft analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr., respectively. He would be the fourth and final defensive tackle of the Chris Petersen era to be drafted — joining Greg Gaines (fourth round, 2019), Vita Vea (first round, 2018) and Elijah Qualls (sixth round, 2017).
While Onwuzurike isn’t easily replaceable on Montlake, the Huskies have the horses to potentially fill the void. Senior Josiah Bronson (23 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks in 2019), sophomores Tuli Letuligasenoa (23 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack), Taki Taimani (16 tackles, 1 TFL) and Draco Bynum, and redshirt freshmen Faatui Tuitele, Jacob Bandes and Noa Ngalu are currently slated to return.
“I’m proud of all that Levi accomplished on and off the field during his time at Washington,” UW head coach Jimmy Lake said in a statement. “He was an outstanding player and an excellent teammate. Everyone in the program wishes him all the best.”