Replacing Ben Burr-Kirven is no easy task for the Washington Huskies. As last year’s Pac 12 defensive player of the year, BBK was responsible for 176 tackles in 2018 alone - More than any other player in the entire 2019 NFL draft. Filling those shoes and replacing that productivity is a job that Huskies linebacker coach Bob Gregory and the rest of the defensive staff have been focused on all off-season.
Talented but Inexperienced
With just 10 days until the home opener vs Eastern Washington, it appears that it will be a combination of seniors Kyler Manu and Brandon Wellington at the inside linebacker positions. At 6-0, 225 lbs, Wellington brings the most experience of the two - but he only has two starts and 50 total tackles in his career as a Husky linebacker. The 6-1, 246-pound Manu has just 12 tackles in 24 games across four seasons. So although these guys have been around the program for a long time, they are virtually untested and unproven in Pac 12 play.
Two players that should see plenty of action at the inside linebacker positions this season are RS-Freshmen Jackson Sirmon and M.J Tafisi. Both are physical and instinctive players who could help solidify things in the middle of that Husky defense if things get rough for Manu and Wellington. The athleticism of Jackson Sirmon, who played in 4 games as a true freshman, gives me the impression that he will be making a case for a starting spot on this Husky defense sooner than later.
The Huskies have had a history of great inside linebackers in recent years. From Shaq Thompson, to Keishawn Bierria, Azeem Victor and Ben Burr-Kirven. Will the current inside linebackers continue that trend? We will find out on August 31st.