Utter desperation makes men do strange things. In Tyrone Willingham's world, it was playing freshman who had no business being on the field in the effort to turn around his fortunes as a head coach. The effort failed miserably, and was yet another nail in the proverbial coffin on the way to an 0-12 season and a date with the executioner.
Linemen are rarely prepared to play as freshman. While one may contend the experience under fire may ultimately pay dividends, I believe it is more important to spend a year getting beaten up in practice and heading to the weight room, giving them a full five years to mature.
The key to the overall Washington defense in 2009 is going to firmly rest on the play of our interior defensive linemen. If they can hold their space and allow the LB's to make the plays they are capable of there will be considerable improvement compared to 2008.
They didn't come close to holding space last season. It seemed like on about every single playthey were bewildered as they were pushed back ten yards by offensive linemen that were 3-5 years older than they were.
6' 2", 348 pound sophomore Alameda Ta'amu returns to anchor the middle. Obviously, a man of his size eats up a more than a little space; he certainly did so in 2008. Unfortunately, most of it was going backwards as opposing offensive linemen took advantage of his lack of agility and experience. 2009 should bode better for Ta'amu, with the new conditioning program obviously of great help.
Junior Cameron Elisara is a leader in the weight room, but as we wrote before last season his great work ethic has not translated into great results on the field. Hopefully the coaching change helps him move up to the next level, but if not, redshirt freshman Craig Noble is waiting in the wings.
Noble, plus sophomores Tyrone Duncan and Nick Wood are the top reserves. Of the three, only Noble has the ability and upside to crack the starting lineup in 2009, posing serious concern for depth. Wood and Duncan are destined to be reserves their entire careers as younger talent passes them by. The coaches are well aware of the challenges this unit faces, and went hard after some fine junior college tackles last spring finding Johnny Tivao, who is shaped like a bowling ball and plays like a holy terror. Tivao hasn't qualified yet; he is still trying to pass a class this summer he has failed twice previously at the JC level. Keep your fingers crossed; if Tivao qualifies, it will really help this unit.
Washington also recruited a couple of sleepers to fill out the depth in freshmen Chris Robinson and Semisi Tokolahi. Semisi was a steal from the Big Island of Hawaii whom everyone was on after Washington's Johnny Nansen discovered him. Robinson, meanwhile, was known and recruited by Coach Holt via several camps at USC.
On the recruiting front, the Huskies intend to bring in 1-3 players in 2010, depending on numbers and where guys ultimately line up. UW already has a soft commit from one of the nation's best in Lakes High School's Sione Potoae. However, USC and Cal are all over him and Potoae intends wants to take a long look at them. Obviously, he is a must-get for the Washington staff, as there aren't any players like of his caliber still uncommitted.
- Alameda Ta'amu So.
- Cameron Elisara Jr.
- Craig Noble RS
- Johnny Tivao (Not Yet Quaified) Jr.
- Tyrone Duncan So.
- Nick Wood So.
- Semisi Tokolahi Fr.
- Chris Robinson Fr.