The biggest difference between college-level and pro-level football is the difficulty of building a good, cohesive unit, and then relying on that team to stick together for multiple seasons. It has proven to be more and more of a challenge to really create a dynamic college team. The Washington Huskies can certainly attest to that.
Senior pass rusher Josh Shirley will not be returning to the Huskies for his final year. It has been reported that Shirley will likely transfer to a school closer to his native southern California.
Shirley was once considered a star on the rise in the college ranks when he recorded 8.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman. After the conclusion of his big season, college scouts thought he could make an early NFL debut. However, his production dropped significantly the following season. He hit a low point during his junior year, when he only recorded three sacks and was stripped of his starting role.
Perhaps it was the defensive system, the reduction in playing time, or just a desire for a change of scenery, but the reason behind Shirley’s decision is not 100% clear. He has plenty of options to choose from in SoCal, so finding a school that will embrace him and his athletic skill set will not be much of a challenge. As far as his draft stock goes, he will need to have another monster year to climb back into the minds of scouts.
So where does this leave the Huskies and new defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski? It’s less of a blow now than what it would have been two years ago when Shirley was showing signs of being one of the best pass rushers in the PAC-12.
Shirley also has a bit of a rough past. He and two friends were arrested in 2010 on suspicion of felony theft, when he was originally on the UCLA roster. That case was later deemed a misdemeanor and was more or less swept under the rug.
This incident coupled with commitment issues may serve as red flags for anyone scouting for an NFL prospect. So, will he be missed? Sure, slightly. He is a great talent, but not one that is irreplaceable.