UW Football | Huskies' defensive line has positive outlook
Washington center Juan Garcia looks across the line on a daily basis, and where some see inevitable liability, he sees only burgeoning capability...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Washington center Juan Garcia looks across the line on a daily basis, and where some see inevitable liability, he sees only burgeoning capability.
"They hear all this crap about how they are the weakest link on the team," he says of the UW defensive line. "But they are young and hungry, and they've really come a long way."
Hungry, however, they'd better stay.
In one of the latest moves to find the best rotation up front, the Huskies have moved former defensive end De'Shon Matthews to tackle, where he played with the first unit for most of Saturday's scrimmage.
Matthews, however, weighs just 253 pounds, which would make him one of the smaller defensive tackles in the Pac-10.
"He better keep eating," said UW defensive line coach Randy Hart.
Matthews, a sophomore, promises he will, saying he's excited about the switch.
"It gives me an opportunity to start, so what's wrong with that?" he said.
Hart, however, says it's too early to determine exactly what Matthews' role will be next fall.
"It's still very open-ended," Hart said. "We still need to see where guys shake out."
Indeed, the reason for the pessimistic view of the defensive line is its uncertainty.
Only one starter returns up front — junior defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. Five of the top six players from last year graduated, and besides Te'o-Nesheim, no other returning linemen made more than two tackles last season.
Hart, who has been UW's defensive line coach since 1988, says he thinks he has had more inexperienced groups during his tenure, but not too often. But he's not too concerned.
"As long as the effort's there," he said, "we'll be OK."
An encouraging sign came Saturday when the unit often seemed to hold its own against a UW offensive line that returns four starters and will be considered one of the best in the Pac-10 next season.
"If you can make a play against our offensive line, I see the potential to make it against any other offensive line," said sophomore tackle Cameron Elisara.
Elisara is one of the reasons for optimism. The 285-pounder played sparingly last season in a rotation that featured three seniors ahead of him. But he's now beginning to flash the form that had him rated as the 10th-best defensive tackle in the nation by Scout.com as a senior at Ferris High in Spokane.
"This year he's so much stronger and his technique is there," said Garcia, who works against Elisara every day.
Elisara said he has lost about 10 pounds from when he arrived at UW, which is helping his quickness.
"I'm moving a lot better, I'm definitely stronger, and the technique has improved a lot," he said.
The other tackle position remains a jumble, with Matthews in the mix along with converted tight end Johnie Kirton and redshirt freshmen Tyrone Duncan and Nick Wood, who each missed much of last season due to injury.
Te'o-Nesheim anchors one end, and junior Darrion Jones, a former linebacker, heads up the other end spot. Hart said 6-7 redshirt freshman Kalani Aldrich of Hilo, Hawaii, "is doing a great job" and is also in the running.
More reinforcements will come in the fall when several highly touted freshmen arrive, including Alameda Ta'amu of Rainier Beach, a likely tackle, and Everrette Thompson of Kennedy, a likely end.
Elisara says the talk that the defensive line could be a weak link doesn't bother the players.
"It might surprise people on the outside how little we consider those things," he said, "because we know exactly what we are doing. People on the outside don't see the work we are putting in during the offseason. People bring that up all the time and act like it's a huge issue, but it's not affecting us."
Hasty, Savannah back
In the 25-minute portion of practice open to the media, linebacker E.J. Savannah and running back J.R. Hasty looked to be back as full participating members of the team.
The two Bellevue High graduates essentially were suspended for the first seven practices of spring ball for what was termed a failure to live up to certain team responsibilities.
Savannah, the team's leading tackler a year ago, and Hasty, a backup running back, have spent much of practice running stairs at Husky Stadium. Monday, however, they took part in all the regular team drills.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 10:18 PM
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