In terms of playmakers, the Husky defense is largely unproven. Desmond Trufant has made plays. Sean Parker has made plays. John Timu has shown a few hints. But really there isn't anyone you can know for certain will be a game-changing factor. But that's where Josh Shirley comes in. He showed signs of that ability at the end of last season, finishing with a team-high 8.5 sacks.
This spring, he appears to have taken his game to another level. Sure he's often going against an unproven offensive line. But still he's making plays, being disruptive and making things happen. He could be a serious threat for the Huskies this fall. And they need it.
From my story ...
It seems any time the Huskies drop back for a pass in an 11-on-11 situation, Shirley is in the general area causing havoc.
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“He’s been really disruptive, especially in days like (Wednesday) where the second half of practice was a real pass emphasis – second-and-long, third-down situations,” coach Steve Sarkisian said. “That’s where Josh can really pin his ears back and go. And he’s got such a great get-off, that’s when he’s at his best, especially when we’ve got some push coming from the inside that can collapse that pocket. He’s tough. He’s tough on all the guys, whether it’s been Riva or whether it’s Micah (Hatchie) or whoever else has been out there. He’s caused problems.”
Those problems are a good thing for the Huskies, who ranked seventh in the Pacific-12 Conference last season with 28 sacks. Shirley led the team with 81/2 sacks and really picked it up toward the end of last season, particularly in the Alamo Bowl.
With another productive offseason that saw him get his weight up to 235 pounds, the Huskies hope he can be a force from the edge.
“I think I’ve taken a lot of steps,” he said. “I still have a lot of improvement to go,” but the coaches are pushing daily to get him better and helping him do what it takes.
Shirley’s new position coach – Tosh Lupoi – has no complaints about his effort.
“Josh Shirley has really proven to be a coachable player so far,” Lupoi said “You can address something and by the next day he’s got it down – stuff where I wouldn’t even expect him to. And he’s the type of guy that’s in your office every day, he’s the type of guy deep in his playbook and that’s been impressive.”