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Originally published October 20, 2011 at 8:00 PM | Page modified October 21, 2011 at 8:27 PM

A faceoff to watch as Huskies battle Stanford: Ta'amu vs. DeCastro

UW defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu faces off against his friend David DeCastro, a Bellevue High grad, in Saturday's big Pac-12 game.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Playing Washington means a chance to see some old friends for Stanford offensive guard David DeCastro, a graduate of Bellevue High.

One old friend — Washington defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu — he'll see up close and personal.

The two figure to lock heads often Saturday in an interior-line matchup as enticing as any in the Pac-12 this year.

Ta'amu, a 6-3, 333-pound senior from Rainier Beach High School, is generally considered a possible first-round NFL pick this year — ESPN.com draft expert Todd McShay rated him 16th overall this week. DeCastro, a 6-5, 310-pound fourth-year junior, was rated 26th overall by McShay this week.

"They are going to have plenty of opportunities to go against one another," said UW coach Steve Sarkisian. "It would be great if Alameda could play one of his better ballgames."

Whatever happens, Ta'amu says he'll warmly shake DeCastro's hand afterward. "That's my boy right there," he said this week.

The two got to know each other following the 2007 high-school season when they were roommates at a high school all-star game in Miami. "He's a great guy," DeCastro said of Ta'amu.

UW fans, of course, wish they'd had a chance to remain roommates. Instead, DeCastro headed to Stanford as part of Jim Harbaugh's first full recruiting class with the Cardinal. He committed early, then briefly reconsidered late before reaffirming with the Cardinal. He's always maintained that Stanford's academic tradition was the ultimate difference between the two schools.

And he's had no reason to regret the decision as he's helped lead Stanford to some of its greatest seasons. The Cardinal is currently on a 14-game winning streak that is the longest in the nation.

DeCastro has started all 32 games he has played at Stanford, and Cardinal coach David Shaw says, "I think David is playing on a level on par with any offensive lineman in college football right now. He is as good as just about any that I've been around, just his consistency as far as his physical toughness and his athletic ability, the amount of times we ask him to pull and every time you pull it's a completely different picture and he adjusts and he can get around piles and can step over guys laying on the ground and still drops his weight with an unbelievable punch on impact. He's phenomenal."

The low-key DeCastro, told of Shaw's comments, said: "That's nice. But I don't think I played that well last week, to be honest."

Shaw also applauds DeCastro's leadership skills, having asked DeCastro to take a more vocal role this season after the Stanford offensive line lost three starters off last season's team. The other returner is left tackle Jonathan Martin, also regarded as a potential first-round pick.

"It's something kind of different I've been asked to do," DeCastro said. "It's one of those things you definitely get better at. I'm still working on it every day."

Because he redshirted in 2008, DeCastro could return next season. But it's widely assumed he will leave early. Asked this week, he said he wasn't thinking about his future now, preferring to focus on this season.

And specifically this week, the Huskies and Ta'amu.

"He's a pretty big and powerful dude," DeCastro said.

Ta'amu, however, was admittedly less powerful in the first few games of the season. He was dealing with a broken hand and constant double- and triple-teams.

The hand, however, has healed, and Ta'amu says the addition of fellow 300-plus pounder Semisi Tokolahi as the starter at the other tackle spot has diverted some of the attention of opponents.

DeCastro and Stanford, however, will provide his biggest test yet. The Cardinal is as physical as any team in the conference and is averaging 181.7 rushing yards per game, while having allowed only two sacks.

"I want to get my name out there, too," Ta'amu said of the spotlight that will be on him this game. "It's a good challenge."

And just in time, Sarkisian says Ta'amu is rounding into form.

"I think he has improved as the year has gone on, and what I have come to find out about 'Meda is he does improve as the year goes on," Sarkisian said. "I've seen that from him the last two seasons, that he has played his best football the second half of the season."

Notes

• Stanford announced Thursday that starting strong safety Delano Howell, a senior who is tied for third on the team in tackles with 25, will miss the game with a hand injury. He will be replaced by sophomore Devon Carrington, who has 19 tackles and has started three games.

• Sarkisian said the team is essentially healthy other than players already declared out for the season. Safety James Sample continues to struggle with a shoulder injury but will make the trip. And Sarkisian said Thursday he thought quarterback Keith Price looked healthier as the week progressed: "He always gets really healthy here in the next 48 hours because it's so limited work-wise and he's off his feet and his body can really recuperate."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

UW and Stanford betting
Stanford and Washington have been good bets — they're a combined 11-1 vs. the spread this season. Including its 41-0 victory over the Huskies last year, Stanford is 11-0-1 against the spread in its past 12 games. The Huskies are 9-1-1 vs. the line since the loss to Stanford. Stanford is a 20 ½ point favorite over the visiting Huskies on Saturday.
Stanford opponent Score Spread Cover?
At Washington Win, 41-0 Stanford by 7 Covered
Arizona Win, 42-17 Stanford by 7 ½ Covered
At Arizona State Win, 17-13 Stanford by 4 Push
At California Win, 48-14 Stanford by 6 ½ Covered
Oregon State Win, 38-0 Stanford by 14 Covered
Virginia Tech (Orange Bowl) Win, 40-12 Stanford by 3 ½ Covered
San Jose State Win, 57-3 Stanford by 30 Covered
At Duke Win, 44-14 Stanford by 20 ½ Covered
At Arizona Win, 37-10 Stanford by 9 ½ Covered
UCLA Win, 45-19 Stanford by 22 ½ Covered
Colorado Win, 48-7 Stanford by 29 Covered
At Washington State Win, 44-14 Stanford by 20 Covered
UW opponent Score Spread Cover?
At Oregon Loss, 53-16 Oregon by 37 Push
UCLA Win, 24-7 UW by 2 Covered
At California Win, 16-13 Cal by 7 1-2 Covered
At Washington State Win, 35-28 UW by 5 ½ Covered
Nebraska (Holiday Bowl) Win, 19-7 Nebraska by 11 ½ Covered
E. Washington Win, 30-27 UW by 16 Lost
Hawaii Win, 40-32 UW by 5 ½ Covered
At Nebraska Loss, 51-38 Nebraska by 17 Covered
California Win, 31-23 UW by 1 Covered
At Utah Win, 31-14 Utah by 10 Covered
Colorado Win, 52-24 UW by 17 Covered
Source: Gary Dougherty, Seattle Times

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