August 12, 2008

Spotlight: Defensive Line

The defensive line is very inexperienced and will be replacing three fulltime starters from last season. Luckily the one returnee they do have is a special one. Defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim led the team last season in tackles for loss and sacks, and he will be relied upon heavily to anchor the young unit. The starting four on paper are light, averaging only 272 pounds, but they also boast some of the best weight room numbers. Behind them is a bevy of bigger bodies, including two of the most intriguing players on the roster in Johnie Kirton and Alameda Ta'amu Kirton has bounced around from running back, to tight end, and now to defensive tackle. Ta'amu is a 350-pound true freshman who could provide the Huskies with a two-gap presence they have been lacking over the past few seasons. The play of this group will dictate the defense as a whole, but can they hold up and improve upon the 185 rushing yards per game they allowed last season?


Daniel T'eo-Nesheim
Waikoloa, HI (Hawaii Prep )
6-foot-4, 265-pound, Redshirt Junior
2007 STATS: 57 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks

T'eo-Nesheim is the most talented player the Huskies have in the defensive trenches this season. He has played in 25 of 26 games over the past two seasons, compiling 92 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks over that time. He was voted the team's defensive MVP and the John P. Angel Lineman of the year on defense. He was top-ten in the league in both tackles for loss and sacks and his 8.5 sacks last season was good enough to ranked him No.34 in the nation. He had a monster game in the Apple Cup last season, collecting nine tackles, four of those for loss and two sacks. Out of high school T'eo-Nesheim was twice first-team all-league and considered the No.33 defensive end in the nation.

Make no mistake; this is T'eo-Nesheim's defense. He may be quiet off the field, but on the field he ratchets up the intensity and is simply one of the Pac-10's best. He has bulked up over 270 pounds and is poised for a big season. He will need to be at his best since at first he will see constant double teams until someone else can emerge as a playmaker.

Darrion Jones
Lynwood, CA (Lynwood HS)
6-foot-3, 255-pound, Redshirt Junior
2007 STATS: 1 tackle

Jones was a reserve last season, only seeing action in four games and collecting just one tackle. Entering fall camp he was listed as the starting defensive end opposite T'eo-Nesheim and it doesn't appear he has hurt that status. Jones came to campus in 2005 as a speedy 225-pound outside linebacker. He chose Washington over an offer from Boise State and saw playing time in six games as a true freshman on special teams. The next season he made the move to defensive line and spent the entirety of 2006 on the service team bulking up and learning the new position. Jones, now pushing 260 pounds is looking to utilize his legitimate 4.6 speed and good strength to have a break out season for the Huskies in 2008.

Jones is a bit undersized, but like the other starters along the defensive line, he boasts very impressive lifting numbers, explosiveness and has been on campus learning the position for a few seasons now. I don't think he has the physical makeup to be an every-down type of player, but he is fast and should cause enough trouble on the edges to take the pass rushing pressure off T'eo-Nesheim.

Kalani Aldrich
Hilo, HI (Kamehameha-Hawaii HS)
6-foot-7, 250-pound, Redshirt Freshman

Aldrich is raw and not even close to realizing his potential. That word - potential - gets thrown around so often it has almost earned a negative meaning. But in Aldrich's case, since he's only played three full seasons of football, his potential is through the roof. He began as a junior in high school on the big island where he earned second-team all-league in his first attempt at the game. That season he racked up 40 tackles and eight sacks, but it was an interception that really caught people's attention. Aldrich batted a pass down at the line of scrimmage, had the where-withal to intercept it, then the athletic ability to race 50 yards for the touchdown. After his senior season he was selected to play in the High School All-American Bowl Game Classic in Shreveport, LA. When is was all said and done, Aldrich had earned scholarship offers from Washington, Hawaii, Colorado, Oregon, UNLV and Utah. He redshirted his freshman season in Seattle and used the time to bulk up and polish his fundamentals.

Without question Aldrich will be a factor this season. He has taken the necessary steps to improve his game. He got bigger, stronger and has learned his position better. But the talented freshman still has a long way to go. He needs to develop a nasty streak, but T'eo-Nesheim claims he's working hard on that. You can bet that line coach Randy Hart and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell will utilize his size and athletic ability very soon. He will need to step up and provide quality play at a position severely lacking in depth.

Javon O'Connor
Los Angeles, CA (Los Angeles HS)
6-foot-5, 250-pound, Redshirt Senior
2007 STATS: NA

O'connor came to Montlake as a 295-pound offensive line prospect in 2004. He redshirted his first season on campus and was used only on the service team in 2005. He made the switch to defense in 2006 and has spent the last two seasons providing depth but not receiving any in-game action. He spent the off-season trimming down and has lost over 40 pounds while making the move to the edge of the defensive line. In high school he was standout on both sides of the ball earning all-league honors as senior.

This should finally be the season O'conner breaks through the rotation and receives playing time. He will be one of the first defensive ends off the bench and is the only reserve with significant experience, if only in practice.

Everrett Thompson
Burien, WA (Kennedy HS)
6-foot-6, 255-pound, True Freshman
2007 HIGH SCHOOL STATS: 60 tackles, 17 sacks

BIO: regarded Thompson as the No. 10 strong-side defensive end in the country for the class of 2008. He finished his senior season with 60 tackles, 17 sacks and was the main weapon in Kennedy's passing attack. For his efforts this past season, Thompson earned first-team Seamount League honors as both a defensive end and tight end and was selected to play in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Miami, FL. He was a, Seattle Times, and AP first-team All-State selection on defense and was selected as an All-American by PrepStar and Superprep magazines.

Thompson is a beast and doesn't look like a true freshman. He has the look of a star and could compete for playing right away at a position looking for consistent production and depth. I haven't got an official weight yet, but he appears to have gained a substantial amount of weight since high school. He's a weight room rat and if he continues to grow and add muscle he could be special for the Huskies in the near future.


Cameron Elisara
Spokane, WA (Ferris HS)
6-foot-2, 290-pound, Redshirt Sophomore
2007 STATS: 2 tackles

Elisara is a big time local product out of Ferris High School. Last season he saw limited playing time in 12 games and was named the defensive scout of the year as a redshirt freshman. Coming out of high school Elisara was considered the No.14 defensive tackle in the nation and the fourth best prospect in the Evergreen State. He was a first team all-league and all-state selection as a senior and had a very good offer sheet. He chose Washington over offers from California, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington State, Arizona State and Boise State.

Elisara has used the last two seasons to add 15-pounds of muscle and become perhaps the strongest player on the Husky roster. He's been groomed to take over the starting defensive tackle position this season and a lot will be asked of him. He will need to be the every down run stopper and should be up to the task. He's the biggest and strongest of the starting front four, and his low center of gravity will make him an absolute load to move around.

[db]De'Shon Matthews/db]
Sacramento, CA (Laguna Creek HS)
6-foot-4, 275-pound, Redshirt Sophomore

Matthews came to Seattle in 2006 a much-decorated defensive end recruit from California. He was considered the No.29 strong-side defensive end in the nation and had the offers to back it up. He chose Washington over Nebraska, Oregon, Colorado and Washington State to name a few. As a senior in high school he had 105 tackles and 8 sacks earning second-team All-Metro and PrepStar All-American status. Last season he saw action in three games after redshirting the 2006 season.

Mathews will be moving from defensive end, inside, to play the tackle position. He has a great skill set and has gained 20 pounds since arriving on campus. He's still undersized for the tackle position, but Mathews has great strength and speed from that position and could provide match-up problems. He's very versatile and could either be used as a pass rushing one-gab tackle, or be moved back outside when they want to go bigger. There are more conventional defensive tackles on the depth chart behind him, so his ability to play all along the line will be a huge asset.

Johnie Kirton
Everett, WA (Jackson HS)
6-foot-4, 290-pound, Redshirt Senior
2007 STATS: 2 receptions, 21 yards

Kirton was originally recruited as a 240-pound running back before gaining 35 pounds his redshirt freshman season. He was actually considered the No.5 fullback coming out of high school in 2004 and won the Gatorade State Player of the Year award as a senior. He moved from running back to tight end in 2005 and has played in 36 games since. In 2006 he was fifth on the team in catches and led all tight ends. Last season he was a regular in the rotation, but never emerged as the playmaker everyone was hoping for. For his senior season he has now moved to defensive tackle after blowing up to a muscular 290 pounds.

Kirton could be one of the biggest surprises of the 2008 season. If he is, this defensive line could be a lot better then anyone imagined. He has the athleticism of a running back, the size of a defensive tackle and the mentality of a middle linebacker. Kirton has a nasty streak and if he can pick up all of the defensive schemes, he could truly be a factor his final season at Montlake.

Tyrone Duncan
Westlake Village, CA (Westlake HS)
6-foot-2, 290-pound, Redshirt Freshman

Duncan spent his first season on campus as a redshirt battling injuries and is looking to provide depth at a very thin position in 2008. He was the No.56 defensive tackle for the class of 2007 and chose Washington over offers from Nebraska, Ole Miss, Arizona State, Utah and Washington to name a few. He was a first-team All-Ventura County Large Schools, a All-CIF Southern Section Northern Division, and an All-Marmonte League selection at defensive tackle

Duncan will have his chance to break into the rotation at tackle. He has good size and great feet for some one that big. He has improved his strength and appears to have the injury bug that plagued him all last season behind him.

Nick Wood
Poway, CA (Poway HS)
6-foot-2, 285-pound, Redshirt Freshman

Wood was bothered by injuries his entire first season on campus and spent it redshirting. He was the No.51 defensive tackle in the nation for the class of 2007 and one of the strongest players on the west coast. He was a first-team All-CIF San Diego section, and a first team all-county defensive lineman. He wowed recruitiers with his weight lifting numbers, putting up 50 bench reps at the Nike Combine in Los Angeles, CA. He chose Washington over offers from Arizona State, Boston College, Colorado, N.C. State, and Wake Forest.

Wood is a beast that will could be a force on the defensive line for years to come. He has great strength and just needs to improve his technique. His size and strength could help him get into the rotation this season, but that will probably be just as a reserve.

Alemeda Ta'amu
Seattle, WA (Rainier Beach HS)
6-foot-2, 350-pound, True Freshman
2007 HIGH SCHOOL STATS: 50 tackles, 10 sacks

Ta'amu is one of the most important recruits from the class of 2008. He was considered the No.15 guard in the nation, but was also a standout on defense. He has the skill to play on either side of the ball in college, but will help the Huskies at defensive tackle where they need it. In high school he was a first-team all-league, first team all-state and Parade All-American selection, while earning the Metro League Sound Division lineman of the year award. For his efforts Ta'amu was invited to play in the Offense-Defense All-American Game in Miami, FL.

Ta'amu has been bothered slightly by a foot injury he sustained in high school, but has been almost able to fully participate fall camp. If he continues to get quality practice reps you can almost guarantee you will see him on the field as a true freshman. At only 6-foot-2 and a very athletic looking 350 pounds, Ta'amu gives the Huskies a legitimate two-gap tackle, something they were missing last season. He could be the player they need to sure up a rush defense that ranked 89th in the county in 2007.


True freshmen Senio Kelemete and Craig Noble are not yet eligible and haven't made it to campus. Both are big time recruits and Noble would have surely seen early playing time had he gotten to Montlake for fall practices. They could both qualify soon, but have missed too much practice to see the field in 2008.

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