Ben Burr-Kirven and DJ Beavers are back to lead the UW's inside linebackers.
The Huskies’ Sept. 1 season opener against Auburn is a mere 159 days away, and another season of great anticipation inches closer with the start of spring practices on Wednesday morning. We continue a daily series of spring position previews here with a look at the linebackers.
Tevis Bartlett, sr., 6-2, 238
Myles Rice, so., 6-3, 246
Amandre Williams, so., 6-2, 234
Ariel Ngata, rs-fr., 6-2, 213
Ben Burr-Kirven, sr., 6-0, 221
Matt Preston, sr., 6-2, 235*
Jake Wambaugh, sr., 6-2, 220*
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DJ Beavers, jr., 6-1, 220
Brandon Wellington, jr., 6-0, 224
Kyler Manu, jr., 6-1, 232
Ryan Bowman, so., 6-0, 258
Camilo Eifler, so., 6-1, 225
Joe Tryon, rs-fr., 6-5, 262
Keishawn Bierria, graduated
Connor O’Brien, graduated
Azeem Victor, graduated
Ale Kaho, fr., 6-1, 218
Jackson Sirmon, fr., 6-2, 224
MJ Tafisi, fr., 6-2, 224
Zion Tupuola-Fetui, fr., 6-2, 250
SPRING OUTLOOK: With Keishawn Bierria’s graduation, the Huskies have lost, in the words of one coach, the “alpha dog” of their defense. Bierria was one of the team’s most respected players in and out of the locker room the past few seasons. The Huskies, no doubt, feel good about Ben Burr-Kirven being back at one inside linebacker spot, but replacing Bierria’s production and leadership will be a priority this spring and beyond. Burr-Kirven led the team with 84 tackles last season. On the outside, senior Tevis Bartlett is back after leading the team in tackles for loss (12.0), and Ryan Bowman returns after leading the team in sacks (5.5) as a redshirt freshman. Injuries kept Brandon Wellington and Amandre Williams out of the Fiesta Bowl. Presuming they’re healthy, they are two guys who will likely have increased roles next fall. Sophomore Camilo Eifler remains an intriguing athlete on the edge.
BIGGEST QUESTION: How soon will Ale Kaho find the field?
OK, this isn’t exactly a question for the spring because Kaho, the five-star inside linebacker from Reno, won’t arrive at UW until this summer. But it is a question that looms, largely and positively, over the linebacker room this spring. Depth is a question mark at both inside linebacker spots, and the presumption here is Kaho is already penciled in to play, in some capacity, as a true freshman next fall. How big his role will be obviously depends on several factors, and one of those is how the likes of DJ Beavers and Wellington (if healthy) are able to establish themselves this spring. Not to be overlooked are the two other inside ‘backers in the 2018 class — Jackson Sirmon and MJ Tafisi — who figure to come in this summer with a chance at early playing time, too.
KEY STAT: 439
Bierria and Azeem Victor combined for 439 career tackles in their UW careers. Both are potential NFL draft picks next month.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: As a redshirt freshman, Beavers filled in capably as a starter late in the 2016 season when Victor went down with a broken leg. Beavers’ 2017 season was derailed by a foot injury in fall camp, and he played in just five games last fall. He has long been seen by his position coach as one of the most underappreciated players on the roster, but this could be the year folks outside the program truly start to appreciate what he can do in a full-time role.