The most disruptive edge defender in college football this season announced Sunday night he will return to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks for another season in 2023.
Fourth-year sophomore Bralen Trice – who led all FBS edge rushers with 67 total pressures – and fifth-year junior Zion Tuputala-Fetui released a :45 second video on social media with a simple caption to make the news official.
A quote read, “we back”, with both saying in their respective tweets “WE BACK… with every intention to be the Best Pass Rush Duo in the Nation.”
Trice and senior Jeremiah Martin proved to be one of the better edge duo in the country this season combining for 118 pressures, 22 tackles for loss and and 17 sacks in 12 games.
“His work ethic. I mean he outworks everybody,” UW co-defensive coordinator Chuck Morrell said in late October of Trice.
“I think that’s the one thing you watch consistently week in, week out. A lot of his production is obviously due to talent. But it’s also due to him just being flat out relentless. He’ll give a first effort. A second effort. A third effort. Consistently, that’s going to wear the guy out across from him on a weekly basis.”
With Martin exhausting his final year of eligibility Tupuola-Fetui is next in line to fill his starting position opposite of Trice.
Tupuola-Fetui mulled over his own draft decision after last season ended and once Kalen DeBoer was named as head coach.
After extensive deliberation he elected to return this season, due in part to his draft evaluation highlighting a need to improve his run defense.
“I kind of know what the book says on me. It says I don’t play the run, Tupuola-Fetui said early in fall camp.
“So I’ve definitely been just working on getting stronger. I always feel like I played the run. And then, when talking with coach Schmidt, while working on my weaknesses I didn’t want my strengths to become weaknesses.”
Tupuola-Fetui made the right decision to return this season. If he can build on his success as an all-around edge defense and be a full-time starter in 2023 the choice to return will be a win-win for Zion and UW.
Pro Football Focus graded Tupuola-Fetui out as the No. 15 edge defender in run defense among Pac-12 players, almost a 25 percent jump from his run grade average in 2021. He’s one of only five edge defenders in the conference to grade out in the top 20 in both run defense and pass rush.
Throughout this season one of the Huskies’ better defensive fronts has been with Trice, Martin, Tupuola-Fetui and sophomore Voi Tunuufi.
The trio returning next season have combined for 16.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss.
“Well I think sometime you have to pick your poison,” Morrell said during the bye week, when asked how Trice’s individual dominance helps the rest of the front.
“We had some opportunities – finally – in terms of getting guys into third and XL. And all of a sudden you put the combination of Voi, ZTF, Jeremiah and Trice out there all at the same time. I mean, good luck. I think it presents opposing offensive lines some challenges when we put all four of those guys out there together.”