Washington redshirt junior outside linebacker Ariel Ngata has entered the transfer portal, Ngata confirmed Friday.
“In the end it was a tough decision but one my family and I thought was necessary. I’ve officially entered the transfer portal,” Ngata tweeted on Friday evening. “I’m thankful for the relationships and bonds that were formed in my time in Seattle and wish the best of luck to all my brothers and to Coach (Jimmy) Lake. Thank you to all of Husky nation for y’all support and love … I will never forget it.
“I know God got my back and I’m going to follow Him wherever he takes me.”
Ngata — a 6-foot-3, 213-pound outside linebacker from Reno, Nev. — made a combined 22 tackles with two tackles for loss and one forced fumble in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, after redshirting as a freshman in 2017. He struggled to settle at a consistent position and bounced at times between outside and inside linebacker.
Still, Ngata’s promise was on display during the 2019 Spring Preview, when he exploded for four tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks — teasing a potential breakout in his redshirt sophomore season.
“He’s almost similar to Cory Littleton, who we had four years ago and is now with the L.A. Rams,” then-defensive coordinator and current head coach Jimmy Lake said of Ngata following the spring scrimmage. “We were always bouncing him back and forth between inside and outside. (We were asking), ‘Is he going to get big enough?’ But you can’t teach the speed that (Ngata) has and the electricity that he has.
“Of course we’d like to get a little more weight on him. But if he plays that fast, that physical, like he did today, those o-linemen aren’t going to be asking what his weight is next year. They’re going to be watching him blow right by them. So I’m excited about him.”
Ngata’s 2019 season fell short of expectations. He contributed 11 tackles and one tackle for loss in 13 games, struggling to earn consistent reps behind starting outside linebackers Joe Tryon and Ryan Bowman as well as redshirt freshman Zion Tupuola-Fetui and true freshman Laiatu Latu. He did shift to inside linebacker and made a career-high eight tackles in a win over Arizona on Oct. 12 but could not sustain that production.
Outside linebackers Tryon, Bowman, Laiatu, Tupuola-Fetui, redshirt freshman Bralen Trice, five-star freshman Sav’ell Smalls and fellow true freshman Jordan Lolohea will all vie for playing time at the position in 2020.
A former Folsom High School standout, Ngata was ranked as a four-star prospect and the No. 17 outside linebacker in the 2017 class by 247Sports. His younger brothers, Joe and Daniyel, were also coveted recruits. Joe is a wide receiver at Clemson, while Daniyel — a four-star running back — signed last month with Arizona State.
Suddenly, Ariel is about to embark on another college recruitment of his own.
And, outside of quarterbacks, that’s been a rarity at Washington in recent years.
“With the rest of our team (besides QBs), thankfully, knock on wood, we haven’t had a lot of guys try to transfer out of here,” Lake said in an interview on 950 AM KJR this week. “I think for the most part, guys do love it here. They feel like they’re getting a fair shake on the depth chart, whether it’s a starter or back up. We might have a few here or there that maybe they know they’re not going to play, and they need to go somewhere else to get some playing time.”
Now, it’s just a matter of seeing where Ngata goes.