Defensive Newcomers to Watch: No. 3

Jarret Finau (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

Today on Dawgman.com we continue our series where Chris Fetters and Scott Eklund take a look at some of top returning underclassmen that are currently in line to see a lot of playing time this fall. Next on the defensive side of the ball are a couple of defensive linemen who are poised to make breakthroughs.

Washington would not recruit a JC player with the intent of riding pine for a year, so what can Josh Banks do right now for the purple and gold? And will Jarett Finau's growth spurt mean the man from Kirkland is ready to contribute?

Scouting Report - Josh Banks comes to UW from San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, Calif., and the 6-foot-3, 274-pound lineman had a phenomenal year for the SJD, racking up 36 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, earning All-Conference, All-Area and All-American honors. He's a 3-technique with great quickness and true interior pass rushing abilities. He's an explosive player for his size. He also has the added bonus of being an experienced, mature player. He signed with Nevada out of high school but had to spend the next year trying to become eligible for enrollment. Essentially Washington is getting a player with three years to play two that is already three years removed from high school. At San Joaquin Delta, Banks has admitted to needing the time there to get his head straight both on and off the field, so the Huskies are getting a man properly motivated to prove he's ready to play at the highest level.

Finau is a player that earned his scholarship to Washington after a grueling Rising Stars workout. There he showed his speed, competitiveness and aggressiveness. But at the time he was only 235 pounds. In the year since that camp experience, Finau has gained 25 rock-solid pounds - turning himself from a true defensive end to a player that could conceivably play anywhere along Justin Wilcox's 3-4 defensive front.
Where they fit - Banks is a true interior player, but in Wilcox's new 3-4 alignment he could play any number of gaps depending on how many defensive linemen happen to be playing on any given snap. I doubt he'd play any wider than a 5-technique right now, where he would be set directly over a tackle on run plays. This would take advantage of his size and explosiveness to become a two-gap linemen in those situations. He could move inside - or even to the nose - on pass plays to spell players like Danny Shelton, Lawrence Lagafuaina, Sione Potoae and Semisi Tokolahi.

The same could be said for Finau, so that's why I see both of these players duking it out for playing time when it's all said and done. They both are relatively the same size, where Banks has the edge in maturity and game experience at the (two-year) college level, whereas Finau has the experience with the team and early knowledge of Wilcox's new defensive philosophy, as well as how DL coaches Johnny Nansen and Tosh Lupoi want the position to be played. So in that sense, I suspect a great battle between Banks and Finau for playing time behind the experienced interior players.

Finau may also have a little bit of an edge in terms of ultimately finding more playing time because of his prior experience as an end. He brings pass rushing ability to the table, and if there are down-and-distance situations that require a bigger rush presence than just Josh Shirley, Hauoli Jamora or Andrew Hudson, Finau is one of those players who can really set an edge and make sure his side of the ball is contained.
Why this is the year to make their mark - For Banks, the reason is simple; his time is now. Sure he has a redshirt year available, and actually in some ways it might be valuable for him to utilize that year if he can't establish himself in fall camp the way he wants to. But he's motivated to prove himself now, so I expect him to go all out to show he can make an impact right away.

With Finau it's a little less cut and dried. As a redshirt frosh he's already gotten a chance to see how his role is developing within Wilcox's new 3-4 scheme and his increased size certainly gives Wilcox a lot more options with Finau. It might take another year for Finau to really stamp his identity on this defense, but that doesn't mean he can't start that process this fall with authority. If there's an underclassman that could compete right away with Banks doing the same thing Banks is capable of doing, it's Finau.

Let the competition begin!

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