Last season, it was the Washington secondary making headlines as one of college football’s best units. Between Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon, UW had two of the best defensive backs in the country on either side of the field, and though the front seven struggled to stop the run, the backend of the Washington defense was stout.

The Huskies’ pass defense ranked first nationally in yards allowed per pass attempt, fourth nationally in explosiveness allowed, and 11th nationally in success rate allowed.

Now, the front seven struggled, but CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee sees things flipping in 2022. Sallee recently wrote that he expects the Huskies to have the third-best front seven in college football next season, behind only Alabama and Clemson. Insert all the ‘eyeball’ emojis possible.

From Sallee:

First-year coach Kalen DeBoer inherited one of the best defenses in the country, which should play well in a Pac-12 that is as wide open as it’s ever been. Zion Tupuola-Fetui should be back from an Achilles injury, and is a flat-out terror on the edge. He averaged 1.75 tackles for loss per game during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, and should be one of the top players in the conference if he stays healthy. … The speed of the Huskies will be as dangerous as any in the country. Carson Bruener will be the star of the linebacking corps in a defense that will be based in the 4-2-5 formation, and Edefuan Ulofoshio should emerge as a star once he’s fully recovered from a knee injury.

Between Tupuola-Fetui, Bruener, Ulofoshio, transfer linebackers Cam Bright and Kris Moll, and stud defensive lineman Tuli Letuligasenoa, Washington has some serious talent in the front seven.

The task for DeBoer and co-defensive coordinators William Inge and Chuck Morrell will be turning all that potential into production.

Despite an elite passing success rate allowed, UW ranked 80th nationally in overall success rate allowed. Opposing offenses were successful on 50% of their rushing attempts. That ranked 121st nationally. And teams game-planned accordingly; only seven defenses were run on more often than Washington.

But following its spring performance, DeBoer seems to be encouraged by the direction things are trending.

“Early on, I felt like our run defense was maybe a little bit not where I wanted it, but the last two or three weeks I really think we’ve gotten a lot better,” he told reporters after the spring. “I like where we’re at there. Our pass-rush has been super consistent all spring long. It’s been hard to handle the edges. You saw that again today. … Those are some of the areas we’ve really shored up.”

The Huskies begin their season at home against Kent State on Sept. 3.