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Better Know a Freshman: Isaiah Washington

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Defensive end should provide quality depth.

Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Few schools rivals LSU's recent production of quality defensive linemen. It's now a yearly expectation that LSU will feature at least one, if not a handful of standout defensive linemen. Just look at this list of NFL players under Miles:

2005: Tyson Jackson, Ricky Jean-Francois, Glenn Dorsey, Kyle Williams
2006: Tyson Jackson, Ricky Jean-Francois, Glenn Dorsey, Al Woods
2007: Tyson Jackson, Ricky Jean-Francois, Glenn Dorsey, Al Woods
2008: Tyson Jackson, Ricky Jean-Francois, Al Woods, Lavar Edwards
2009: Michael Brockers, Sam Montgomery, Bennie Logan, Barkevious Mingo, Al Woods, Lavar Edwards
2010: Michael Brockers, Sam Montgomery, Bennie Logan, Barkevious Mingo, Ego Ferguson, Lavar Edwards, 
2011: Michael Brockers, Sam Montgomery, Bennie Logan, Barkevious Mingo, Ego Ferguson, Lavar Edwards, Anthony Johnson, Jermauria Rasco
2012: Sam Montgomery, Bennie Logan, Barkevious Mingo, Lavar Edwards, Ego Ferguson, Anthony Johnson, Jermauria Rasco, Danielle Hunter
2013: Ego Ferguson, Anthony Johnson, Jermauria Rasco, Danielle Hunter
2014: Jermauria Rasco, Danielle Hunter

This is solely a list of players currently on an NFL roster. Toss in guys like Drake Nevis, Claude Wroten and others that spent time in the NFL themselves. LSU fields about 4 NFL quality DL in a given season, obviously at various stages of development and contribution. The 2013 and 2014 numbers are likely to rise once those players graduate and move on to the NFL. It's a pretty astonishing number.

Perhaps even more amazing is that LSU tends to find players that are prepared to contribute at a young age and remain highly productive throughout their eligibility.

Can Isaiah Washington continue that tradition?

Background

In 2014, LSU struck out with star Edna Karr defensive lineman Gerald Willis. Hindsight is 20/20, but perhaps they dodged a bullet, judging by all his struggles thus far. Playing alongside Willis, Washington was far less heralded, yet still accomplished. He did enough to earn a scholarship offer from Tennessee that January following his Junior year. Three weeks later he camped at LSU, earned his local offer and committed on the spot. He took unofficial visits to Florida and Florida State later that Spring before completely shutting it down. Not even a rumor of a rumor percolated about Washington having anything but eyes for LSU. He took his official visit in January and signed his papers a month later in perhaps one of the least eventful and interesting recruiting stories of the 2015 signing class.

In many ways, his recruitment mirrors his prep career. Quiet, without much attention or attraction, but workmanlike and focused. This isn't to say Washington was not accomplished in high school. He racked up 15.5 TFLs with 7 sacks and 2 forced fumbles as a Senior. He was elected to the 4A First Team All State by LFCA.

Washington finished as a composite 3 star with a .8711 rating. He ranked 24th in the state overall, and wasn't even considered the state's top DL in this signing class.

100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career.

97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who displays pro-potential.

89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country.

79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.

Tale of the Tape

Height: 6'4"
Weight: 241
40: 5.34
20 Yard Shuttle: 5.07
Vertical Leap: 25.9"
Power Ball Toss: 27.0"
SPARQ: 44.25

To put it plainly, these numbers aren't good. He's a good sized kid, but his athleticism is really lacking here. I'll even give him the benefit of the doubt that he may not test well or have been prepared. That said, the numbers more or less back up what I see on tape as well.

Film Study

Strengths: Game Intelligence, Size, Hustle

Weaknesses: Athleticism, Pass Rush Moves

Strengths

Game Intelligence: One thing that stands out the most about Washington is that he must be an excellent study in the film room. You rarely find him out of position or lost on the field. He seems to always find the ball. His individual clips are a little bit difficult to parse out, but just watch the whole four minute tape and you'll see what I mean. He doesn't over run plays or needlessly attack. He reads the play well and gets to the ball carrier with consistency.

Size: At 6'4", 241 pounds he's already bigger than Mingo ever was at LSU. This kid is a big-bodied DE that should be able to play right away because of it. He's got good length and bulk.

Hustle: He's an effort player that's not going to take plays off.

Weaknesses

Athleticism: The most glaring concern to me is that he's not a super athletic player off the edge. He shows some short area quickness, but he's not gonna bust you with a speed rush.

Pass Rush Moves: There are moments when he uses his hands well, but he doesn't build much from there. You won't see him rip or swim. He doesn't have the athletic ability to speed rush. He flashes a bull rush now and again, but he's not an overtly powerful player either.

Summary

Washington, to me, is a player without standout traits. He's got good size, but he's not very athletic. He flashes moments of good technique, especially in run defense, though lacks in the passing game. Overall I'm concerned about his athletic limitations.

That said, he must be doing some thing right. Others seem to be higher on Washington than I. J.C. Shurburtt at 247 listed him as our Freshman sleeper for 2015. Practice reports indicate he's already running with the 2s and that Orgeron is very happy with his progress. I've long thought he had the size to contribute immediately, though I see him more as a steady hand type than an impact player, like Arden Key.

Yet, LSU finds itself in position of needing DE depth. Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal are likely to man the starting spots. Key has already made an impression enough to see snaps with the 1st while Bower nurses an injury. Beyond that, we haven't heard much about Deondre Clark or Sione Teuhema. That's virtually the entire DE depth chart. So playing time should be available.

Ultimately, I still project Washington to be a quality, steady run stopping end that probably won't play a ton of pass rushing downs. He flashes some bend around the edge, so maybe I underrated his athleticism, but from what I see on tape, I don't see him developing into that type of player.

High End: Rotational DE that could spot start in lieu of injury. Think Lavar Edwards.

Low End: Quality depth that sees early playing time but fades as depth improves. Think Chancey Aghayere.

Realistic: I think he's a rotational only player. I don't see Washington ever ascending into a full-time starting role, but he will be a guy that can take some quality snaps and help the defense with his hustle, study habits and work ethic.