UW Huskies spring football preview: Who steps in as UW’s next great pass-rusher?

A primer on UW’s linebackers heading into spring practice Monday.

To count down the start of the Huskies’ spring football on Monday, we’ll offer a primer of each position unit, assessing what happened in 2016 and expectations for 2017.

Today: Linebackers

Projected depth chart:

Buck:
Connor O’Brien, sr., 6-3, 224
Benning Potoa’e, so., 6-3, 270
Bryce Sterk, so., 6-4, 256
Myles Rice, rs-fr., 6-3, 243
Ryan Bowman, rs-fr., 6-0, 267*

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Middle:
Azeem Victor, sr., 6-3, 222
D.J. Beavers, so., 6-0, 227
Sean Constantine, sr., 6-2, 231
Brandon Wellington, so., 5-11, 223
Jake Wambaugh, jr., 6-1, 221*

Weak-side:
Keishawn Bierria, sr., 6-1, 230
Ben Burr-Kirven, jr., 6-0, 221
Kyler Manu, so., 6-1, 233
Matt Preston, jr., 6-2, 230*

Strong-side:
Tevis Bartlett, jr., 6-2, 229
Amandre Williams, 6-2, 230
Jusstis Warren, so., 6-2, 243
Camilo Eifler, rs-fr., 6-1, 219
*walk-on

2016 review: Budda Baker won the team defensive MVP award last fall, and deservedly so. But no one was more steady than Keishawn Bierria, who emerged as a leader on and off the field. His leadership was especially valuable after season-ending injuries to Joe Mathis and Azeem Victor, the Huskies’ two most feared linebackers. Mathis and Psalm Wooching, who combined for 11 sacks from the outside linebacker spots, have graduated from the program, but the strength of the defense will be in the middle with Bierria and Victor, who have a chance to cement their legacy as one of UW’s all-time great inside tandems. Victor, an all-Pac-12 first-team selection, isn’t expected to do much this spring, but he looks fully recovered from the broken leg suffered against USC:

2017 outlook: This recurring question from the past two offseasons — Who can step in as an elite pass-rusher(s)? — has resurfaced again for the UW defense. Last season, it was Mathis and Wooching answering the question as replacements for Travis Feeney and Cory…

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