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Huskies’ defensive-line depth will be tested against Colorado

True freshmen Sam Taimani and Tuli Letuligasenoa could make their Pac-12 debut on Saturday.

Adam Jude

The Huskies are running out of proven options on the defensive line.

Senior Shane Bowman is expected to be out for several more weeks as he recovers from a broken foot, and now senior Jaylen Johnson will be suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game against Colorado after his fourth-quarter targeting penalty in the overtime loss at Oregon.

That leaves the Huskies with only three veteran defensive linemen to start Saturday: Greg Gaines, Benning Potoa’e and Levi Onwuzurike.

Veteran walk-ons Josiah Bronson and John Clark have been counted on more the past few games, and they’ll likely see even more snaps against Colorado (12:30 p.m., Fox).

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It’s also likely that the Huskies will turn to true freshmen Sam Taimani and Tuli Letuligasenoa for their Pac-12 debut Saturday. Taimani, at 318 pounds, and Letuligasenoa, at 336 pounds, will be asked to plug holes in more ways than one.

The line’s depth “will be (tested), and we’re encouraged by that. Next-man-up mentality,” D-line coach Ikaika Malloe said Tuesday. “I know those freshmen are dying to get in there, so it’ll be exciting this week because all the work that they’ve put in — now they get a chance to put it to the test. So we’ll see what those guys can do.”

Letuligasenoa played limited snaps against North Dakota in September, and both true freshmen have impressed teammates in practices during the first half of the season.

“Those guys are definitely going to be great players. I know that for a fact,” Gaines said. “When they first got here, they were already way better than I was (as a freshman). Watching them do drills, I was like, ‘Wow, they actually know what they’re doing.’ I looked like an idiot when I first got here. They’re going to be really good players.”

Targeting the right call

Malloe said Johnson was “disappointed” in his targeting penalty against Oregon’s Justin Herbert in the fourth quarter on Saturday.

“He was disappointed, because we work on that type of stuff and we actually pride ourselves on trying to play by the rules,” Malloe said. “So he was really disappointed, but rules are rules and he’ll get better on it.”

UW coach Chris Petersen said the targeting penalty was correctly assessed in that situation.

“That play was like really critical to that whole game. We had them and then we gave them a first down,” Petersen said. “With all that being said, I do want that called. I think that’s good for the game of football. There’s no messing around in college football. And it’s painful. With Jaylen, there was no intent. We all know that. It was just bang-bang. It just happened. We’re trying to do the best we can for this game and these kids. There’s so much less gray area than it used to be.”

Miller practices

Senior cornerback Jordan Miller practiced on Tuesday and should be good to go for Saturday, co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said.

Miller appeared to injury his leg at Oregon and missed the second half of the game. Sophomore Keith Taylor took over at right corner in Miller’s place.

Miller this week was named one of three nominees for the College Sports Information Directors of America comeback player of the year award. Midway through the 2017 season, Miller sustained a horrific broken leg that required a second surgery earlier this year.

Also nominated: David Blough of Purdue and Niall Lewison of Otterbein University.

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