The Huskies have some bodies to work with at defensive tackle and for the most part they are all young, talented, and in desperate need of conditioning and development.
DT Cameron Elisara is the old man of the unit and the play of the former four star recruit from Spokane last season was uninspiring to say the least. For some reason all that potential has not resulted in much production under the previous regime despite the fact that the kid is a monster in the weight room.
One problem with Elisara is he may be better suited to play on the outside. He seems to disapear and get eaten up on the inside. Despite the fine work ethic he plays stiff and doesn't develop the proper leverage needed for the position.
Willingham had little choice other than to play him inside last season because the depth simply wasn't there. I think this spring they are going to take a long look at figuring where Cameron fits best on this team over the next two years.
The new staff was succesful in bringing in a guy that just may be able to solve of the leverage problems on the inside. At 5'11 and a reported 340 pounds Johnny Tivao is a load. All reports on this kid so far indicate that he is a warrior.
Like all JC kids you can't count on him till he qualifies and it is a shame that he isn't here this winter in the conditioning program under Coach Lewis because from the pictures I have seen he could use a little firming up.
Despite that initial impression he actually played fullback in soirt yardage situations for his JC team last season. That shows me that he may have the feet needed to do the job despite the girth and low center of gravity.
Alameda Taamu was one of the top recruits in the West in 2008 and he was forced to play way too early. I actually think it is about impossible for any frosh to make an impact on the defensive line right away as a starter.
Now that he is in a strong conditioning program with a young and motivated coaching staff you can count on this kid to show improvement in 2009. He has all the tools to be a good player.
Senio Kelmente may have been the top recruit in Willingham's last class based on his performance his senior year in HS. Like Alameda he wasn't ready to play last season and would have greatly benefited from a RS season which never happened.
The problem with playing kids like this early because of need is you cost them a year in development and a year of eligibility. All you have to do is look back on the careers of Greyson Gunheim and Ceasar Rayford to realize the folly of such hasty behavior.
Kelmente can play inside and outside and like Taamu we expect a lot of improvement which will be evident in spring and fall.
Craig Noble opened up some eyes after he arrived late last fall. The coaching staff didn't sacrifice him since the season was already lost. He could end up moving to OG if they feel he is needed there but I don't expect the coaches to make such a move until they evaluate him on the playing field at DT this spring.
Tyrone Duncan and Nick Wood round out the depth at DT and both could be ticketed for the offensive line. When true frosh pass you up in the depth chart it means that maybe a position or school change could be in order.
Of the two I think Duncan has the most potential and could be a real good fit at OG. Wood is real stiff and I think he over his head at this level and doesn't have the right body type for OG. The coaching change should benefit these guys and the entire unit. The emphasis on conditioning should yield better players no matter what the ultimate talent level is.
The coaching staff brings in a couple of promising frosh this fall in Chris Robinson and Semisi Tokolahi. Both of these guys flew under the radar until December then the interest increased considerably.
Robinson is a kid the coaches like a lot and they know him well from camps at USC. They actually say the words Sedrick Ellis and Chris Robinson in the same sentence. I didn't exactly see that in the limited clips I watched but you have to trust the coaches.
Semisi Tokolahi was a big get. This kid has the potential to be real good. He flew under the radar because like most kids from Hawaii he didn't get a lot of exposure living on an outter Island and wasn't evaluated till December when his film was sent out. Once word got out about him he became a hot commodity.
In conclusion I see a lot of potential for improvement on the defensive line because while they are young the talent is obviously there if developed correctly. Throwing a bunch of true frosh into the fire last season was just stupid but since Willingham knew it would take a miracle for him to retain his job he took the gamble.
Give these kids a real conditioning program, some emotion, and improved instruction coupled with some new muscle and we will see some improvement. How much improvement is up in the air until I get a chance to watch them play this spring.