We continue our review of positons with an area that seemed a particular concern heading into the spring — the defensive line.
POST-SPRING DEPTH CHART
DE — Talia Crichton, So./Kalani Aldrich, Jr./Pete Follmer, Jr.
DT — Alameda Ta’amu, Jr./Semisi Tokolahi, So.
DT — Cameron Elisara, Sr./Tyrone Duncan, Jr./Chris Robinson, Fr.
DE — Everrette Thompson, Jr./orDe’Shon Matthews, Sr./Cameron Elisara, Sr.
NEWCOMERS ARRIVING IN THE FALL
DE Andrew Hudson, DE Hau’oli Jamora, DT Lawrence Lagafuaina, DT Sione Potoa’e, DE Brent Williams.
The defensive line appeared Washington’s most fragile position when the spring ended due to injuries that held out Kalani Aldrich (knee) and Everrette Thompson (Achilles), as well as the legal issues of Andru Pulu (suspended and unlikely to be back) — all defensive ends.
But by the end of the spring, the Huskies felt a lot better about it.
UW coach Steve Sarkisian said that he expects Aldrich and Thompson to be healthy and ready to go for fall camp, barring any setback. He also was pleased with the progress of some younger or inexerienced players such as Ta’amu (pictured last year against Arizona State), Crichton, Duncan and Matthews, as well as the success of the experiment of moving Elisara to defensive end (though he will remain primarily a defensive tackle for now with the ability to move back-and-forth).
Here is Sarkisian’s post-spring assessment of the position:
“I was impressed. I thought Alameda Ta’amu did some things that showed he can be a dominant player for us. His weight’s down to 330 from over 360 when we first took over 18 months ago. So to be down over 30 pounds is huge for him, and it’s showing in his quickness and his power. I thought Cameron Elisara had an excellent spring, thought Talia Crichton had a nice spring. I thought De’Shon Matthews when he was healthy did some really nice things for us. So it’s a little deeper gropup than the perception might give us, especially when we add back in Everrette and Kalani and some of your young guys coming in. We will be fine. I thought they were disruptive. We’re still going to fight the fight to rush the passer better, especially on the obvious passing downs. But in the run game and first and second down stuff, I really liked what they did.”
That Elisara proved he could play defensive end was critical as he gives the Huskies some options in getting their four best DLs on the field, assuming Aldrich and Thompson return healthy and to form.
Elisara, however, played mostly tackle during the spring game, when the No. 1 DL seemed to win more than its share of battles against the No. 1 offensive line (which is why I’m listing him as a starting tackle and a backup end). Elisara said that performance should have convinced those who had concerns about the spot not to worry.
“Everybody wants to name a concern on the defense so they chose us,” he said. “Then whole spring, the lack of depth was the big thing (to others). But we haven’t been concerned about it. We were short at end so they moved me out to end. A few guys stepped up. It really gave us a chance to build depth the fact that we lacked depth because all those guys otherwise wouldn’t have gotten all the plays that they got in the spring, and that’s going to help us out (in the fall).”
As Sarkisian noted, one of the other bright spots of the spring was the play of Ta’amu, at what is technically the team’s nose tackle position (primarily lining up directly over the center), a spot that calls for a bigger, powerful player.
Elisara plays the three-technique defensive tackle spot (here’s a decent explainer of the differences in the two spots)
Crichton starts at the DE spot that typically lines up over the weak side (usually a smaller, quicker player), with the other spot typically lining up on the strong side.
The Huskies have five DLs arriving in the fall. Lagafuaina appears a prototype nose tackle, Potoa’e at the other DT spot. Hudson and Williams appear more speed-rusher types, Jamora maybe able to play both spots.
Before spring, speculation was UW would need a few of those guys to play immediately. Thay may still (and the two tackles appear the readiest, one reason to get Elisara experienced at end) but the need doesn’t appear as great now.
Asked at the end of the spring about the possibility of freshmen playing, Sarkisian said: “If they are good enough we want all the help we can get but we are not going to force a guy to play who is not ready to play. But if there is a guy or two in there who can help us we are going to play them.”