Tag Archives: Alameda Ta’amu

Huskies at the Quarter Pole

It’s hard to believe, but the Husky season is already at the quarter point.  Our Dawgs’ have the record we all expected them to have after 3 games, 2-1, even if they’ve taken a strange route to get there.

September started with a game against Eastern Washington where the Huskies were outplayed in almost every area of the game.  They got the win, but panic ensued around Husky nation and people were upset.  Next, Hawaii came in and the Dawgs came out on fire.  They jumped to a 21-0 lead and seemed like a team who could compete with the best of the best.  Then they let Hawaii back into it and held on for a victory.  The Huskies were 2-0 for the first time since 2007 but neither victory provided a ton of confidence in the team.

Yesterday, they went into one of the toughest places to play in the country.  They stood toe-to-toe with Nebraska in the first half, and by all accounts would have had the lead going into halftime if it weren’t for a terrible call.  Then, the third quarter started.  A three-and-out, a terrible call on a punt, a touchdown, a fumbled kick-off, a touchdown, a turnover on downs, and a touchdown later the Huskies were down by 24.

It was a terrible stretch to watch and, judging from post-game interviews, was even worse to play in.  Now that I’ve cooled off and watched the rest of the game, I’ve realized that those stretches are one of the many reasons why I love college football.  On any Saturday, a team can be totally swept up in the momentum of the game and anything can happen.  These players are taking calculus and history classes during the week and all of a sudden they’re dealing with poor officiating and bad bounces of the ball and they completely lose their composure.  That happened to us on Saturday and I’m not saying it’s acceptable, it’s not, but that’s college football and it’s part of the reason why it’s so exciting.

Anyway, the Huskies regained their composure and went on to battle back, fighting valiantly to the finish.  It wasn’t the outcome we had hoped for, but it was probably the best game the Huskies have played all season.

I’ll break down each position after the jump.  Continue reading

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Filling the Holes – Defense Line

The off-season and Spring symbolizes one thing in college football: Hope.  Hope that your team will get better or repeat the success of last year.  With the Washington football team, there’s a good amount of reason to hope.  We’re entering our 3rd year under a new coaching staff and that is when you see the argument of playing with “the old coaches players'” go out the window.  As Bob Condotta notes in a recent post, this is Sarkisian’s team now.

With that, comes getting to know a few players who will fill in where graduates left.  On defense, the Huskies lose three significant players, along with a few role players.  Here’s who they lose and who will fill the hole that has been left:

Defensive End

Who’s Gone: De’Shon Matthews
Matthews had an interesting career at UW.  He red-shirted his freshman year and showed a good amount of promise in the Spring game and Fall camp, he played sparingly his red-shirt freshman year.  In this time, because of a lack of depth at defensive tackle, Willingham decided that a 260 lb. freshman switch positions was a good idea.  It wasn’t.  From there on out, no one really heard from Matthews.  This year he played a little bit.  With injuries at defensive end, Matthews got some time towards the end of the year and got a start in the Holiday Bowl.  He played well at times, but the Dawgs have better players than him on the roster.

The New Guys:
The Huskies already have some players that have filled in at this spot.  Led by Talia Crichton, Everrette Thompson, Hau’oli Jamora (along with a few backups such as Kaleni Aldrich), most of the players you’ll see at this position next year will look familiar.  There are two guys who will make an impact who red-shirted this year, Andrew Hudson and Josh Shirley.

Hudson came to UW from California in last year’s recruiting class.  It came as a surprise that Hudson red-shirted this year.  He was thought to be the most physically ready of all incoming freshman defensive ends, but it was decided that he should red-shirt and put some weight on.  The roster lists him as only 230 lbs. but he has gotten bigger since then.  The coaches raved about him during bowl practices and said they see him making an impact next year.

Josh Shirley had a confusing road to Washington.  Shirley decided between UCLA and UW on signing day last year and Huskies fans were let down when he picked UCLA.  Then, Shirley ran into some legal trouble in his couple weeks at UCLA, was kicked off the team and immediately transferred to Washington.  Many thought he’d be a linebacker, but the coaches moved him to defensive end.  He was also thought to make an immediate impact, but that didn’t end up happening.  Shirley wasn’t big enough to play right away at defensive end so he took the year to develop.  He was raved about by the end of the year and will be a quick threat off the edge next year.  Expect him to make a big impact in the pass rush.

Defensive Tackle:

Who’s Gone:  Cameron Elisara
Elisara was another guy with an interesting career as a Husky.  He came to UW as a highly rated recruit but never really developed into that guy.  Blame it on a series of stingers that eventually ended his career a few games early.  The Huskies have already dealt with the loss of Elisara and it won’t greatly affect them because of the Alameda Ta’amu and Semisi Tokolahi combination.  I always have felt a little bad for Cameron.  It always seemed that when he would take a step forward he would suffer some nagging injury that would take him out.

The New Guys:
As I mentioned, the main guys at this position are Alameda Ta’amu and Semisi Tokolahi.  I also wouldn’t be surprised if Everrette Thompson moves back inside because of the depth at end.  There are two guys that I think will make an impact that we didn’t hear much from this year, Sione Potoae and Lawrence Lagafuiana.

Sione came to UW as the biggest defensive line commit in recent memory (think Danny Shelton this year, only more hype).  Because of a lack of depth at the position, Sione was forced into playing time.  He wasn’t dominated but he also did it make a big impact for the Dawgs.  Another year of development in the weight room and in practice could turn him into the player his potential suggests he can be.  If he can take a step forward like Tokolahi did this year, the Huskies will have their best group of defensive tackles in over a decade.

Lawrence Lagafuiana is a mammoth man.  He is only 6 feet tall but came to UW weighing about 35o lbs.  He has dropped weight since then, but still takes up a lot of room inside.  He is said to have lots of strength in his lower body, and with his weight he should be able to move people around.  He will add depth next year and will get some playing time.

I’m not including incoming freshmen in this because Matthew recently wrote a series of posts about them.  There are some intriguing commits that could be put in these positions though.  I’ll be back with linebackers and safety soon.

Thanks for reading!

Andrew

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One Down, Two to Go!

Last night, the Husky football team closed out their home schedule with a 24-7 win over UCLA.  The defense had their best performance of the season and the team closed out the game like they needed to to get a victory.  Over the next two weeks, I plan on writing a few posts on the Husky seniors, but for today I want to address the biggest question left on this season: Can this team make a bowl game?

The Huskies sit at 4-6 right now with two games remaining.  Obviously, the Huskies have to win the next two to assure themselves a spot in the post-season.  They can do this.  They play an inconsistent Cal team and then a Cougar team, that is improving but is still the worst team in the conference.  Last night was a good team effort by the Huskies but I’m still not feeling very confident in our chances.  These things have to improve:

  • The defensive line needs to continue to improve. Last night, the Dawgs d-line played their best half of the season, in the second half.  Ta’amu and Jamora made 12 tackles combined and there was some penetration.  Yes, UCLA’s offense in the second half was absolutely terrible but some of the credit has to go to the Huskies defense for that.  These lineman have to keep getting better and cause penetration.  They face a tough task next week against Cal and Shane Vereen but expect the gameplan for the defense to be much like it was against UCLA, forcing Cal to throw.
  • Keep the Rushing Attack Going. If the Huskies run for over 250 yards in each of their next games, I like their chances.  This will especially be essential against WSU, in a freezing game that will be all about running the football.  Sark needs to make a commitment to running the football often over the next 2 games, much like he did in the second half.  Also, as Locker gets more healthy I think they need to let him run more.  These are the last 2 games he has.  I think he would agree with me here.
  • Converting 3rd and Shorts. This was the most frustrating part of the game yesterday.  I don’t know how many third and shorts the Huskies had but I can only think of them converting on one of them.  It’s probably more but it didn’t feel like it.  The play calling needs to be more creative on 3rd and short and the players need to execute better.
  • Colin Porter needs to start. This is the most questionable of these points, but, in my opinion, the offensive line is clearly better when he’s in the game.  He was in most of the second half when the running game really got going and was in the game on the first touchdown drive also.  Christine is a leader and gives an all out effort, but Porter is just better.  It seems like this has been the case all season.

Surely, there are other keys but these are the ones I can think of without getting extremely obvious.  That’s all for now, have a good weekend and thanks for reading!

Andrew

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Huskies Post Game: Syracuse

The Huskies got their first win of the year last night at Husky Stadium against Syracuse, 41-20. The Dawgs’ struggled early on; there wasn’t any offensive rhythm and special team’s mistakes led to an early 10-0 lead for the Orange.  But, then the Huskies found it.  They played like the team we had planned on seeing this year.  They outscored Syracuse 41-10 through the rest of the game and it wasn’t much of a contest after the first couple plays in the second half.

Jermaine Kearse had a monster day (9 receptions for 179 yards), as the offense used big plays to dominate.  The defense was solid too.  They gave up two or three big plays but the two touchdowns Syracuse scored were because of a special teams penalty and a turnover.

I’ll review this one by taking a look at each position.  I haven’t been able to find a replay anywhere yet, FSN decided to show a replay of Wyoming and Texas instead, so I won’t be as thorough as I’d like to be but these were my first impressions from being there.  Continue reading

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UW Huskies Defensive Preview

In 2009, the Husky defense was frustratingly inconsistent.  Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and Donald Butler, possibly its two best players, both graduated, but there is a lot of hope the defense will be greatly improved in 2010.  This is due partly to a dominating end to last season, holding WSU and Cal to 10 points in the final two games, but it’s also based on the potential maturation of a young group.

Defensive End

Starters:

Everette Thompson:  Thompson sounds like he’s recovered from an offseason achilles injury just in time, and stands to be one of the most important pieces of the defense.  A highly touted recruit, he’s spent time at tackle as well.  He’s bigger than most Husky D ends in recent memory, which will hopefully aid in the run defense.  It’s even more vital that he contribute in replacing some of Te’o-Nesheim’s record-number sacks.

Talia Crichton:  A true sophomore, Crichton played more than anyone likely anticipated last year, with decent results.  Hard to say what to expect from him, but coaches have been impressed with his improvement this fall.  He seems to be more of a pass rusher, which this defense desperately needs.

Depth: Kalani Aldrich, De’shon Matthews, Hau’oli Jamora, Josh Shirley.  Aldrich is trying to recover from knee surgery, but has decent potential if he can get back all the way.  He’d have contended for a starting spot if not for the injury.  Matthews is a former big time recruit who’s never really made an impact.  He has one last shot and is in position for a lot of minutes as the number one back-up.  Jamora and Shirley are true freshman.  Jamora is in the two-deeps and will play.  Shirley is more heralded, but joined the team late and seems to be having a tough transition to end from high school linebacker.  He’s likely to redshirt, but if he progresses and they’re needing a speed rusher, who knows.

Analysis:  This is one of the toughest positions on the team to call.  There’s potential, to be sure, but the only one who inspires real confidence is Thompson, and he’s coming off major surgery.  This group has to get pressure on the quarterback this year.  Hopefully they’ll be aided in that by an improved interior of the line.

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Countdown to Camp: Press Conference Notes

4 days!  Sark had his season opening press conference today which didn’t give off a whole lot of news.  Here were a few things that stuck out to me.

  • Sark said that starting tight end, Chris Izbicki, had the best off-season of anyone.  This is great news if true.  It’s impossible to know what Izbicki did his first two years here because he was in Willingham’s doghouse.  Maybe he worked hard, maybe he didn’t.  But, now we have proof that he’s making big strides and wants to help the team win ball games.  Chris will play a big role on this team and if he meets his initial potential (a 4-star recruit coming out of high school) he will be another weapon in this high-powered offense.
  • Brent Williams and John Timu will gray-shirt this year.  Timu is not a surprise but Williams is.  I thought Williams would come in and redshirt but he also had the possibility of playing because of the lack of depth.  Maybe this move shows that Sark has faith that the previously injured defensive ends (Aldrich and Thompson) are fine.  Maybe I’m reading too much into it. 
  • Sark stated that he thinks Jake should be above a 65% completion percentage and have a 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio.  If both of those things happen, I think the Huskies will win 9 games or more.  Those are some lofty goals but if anyone could get to them, Montlake Jake would be the guy to do it.
  • He gave the team a clean bill of health.  Justin Glenn will be monitored very closely with an ankle issue but the rest of the team is very healthy heading into camp.
  • The Huskies announced they have 2 walk-on quarterbacks that were added to their roster.  I won’t pretend like I know a thing  about either of them but they both put up some good high school numbers.  They are much needed extra bodies at that position.
  • Speaking of extra bodies, the Huskies reportedly have 81 scholarship players on the active roster (I thought it would be 78 or 79 and I’m not sure where I’m off) and have 23 walk-ons.  That’s 104 players if you don’t feel like doing the addition.  The NCAA limit is 105.
  • Josh Shirley will start out at defensive end.  Although this is where he’ll start, I think he’ll get a good look at the open linebacker position also. 
  • Perhaps the biggest news of the day were the listed weights of players.  Ivan Lewis is one crazy dude and our players seem to be getting in the shape that the coaches want them to be in.  Here are a few of the biggest increases/decreases (straight from Condotta’s blog):
    RB Demetrius Bronson was 206, now 221
    DE Talia Critchon was 229, now 246
    DT Alameda Ta’amu was 348, now 330
    DT Semisi Tokolahi was 340, now 298
    The theme of this was the big defensive lineman losing some weight while the younger guys at other positions put on some weight.  Bronson is obviously embracing the ‘big back’ role that he’ll have with the team.  It’s great to see Critchon up some so he won’t get man-handled this year.  Ta’amu looks like a different person, according to Sark.  Tokolahi lost 42 lbs.  That’s crazy.  I think he’ll be in a little bit better playing shape now.

I realize that now it’s only 3 days until camp now but I just got back to Yakima after a terrible Mariner game.  Poor Felix, he deserves better.  I’ll be back with more later today!

Andrew

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Huskies Position Overviews – Defensive Line

Before I go into the defensive line, I want to add a little about Matthew’s Husky basketball post earlier today.  After watching many disappointing games (there have been many great games too) with my brother, I think that we deal with losses similarly.  We both get fairly upset (I know it’s just a game) and that is fairly evident after the game.  After a while we’ll get back to our bad jokes and act like ourselves but it takes a few hours at least.  All this to say, I’m not going to rehash this game either.  Maybe Joe or Dan will and I’m sure they’d do a better job than me; but in a season of memorable games this is one that I don’t want to remember.  This was one of my favorite Husky teams of all time and it has been a great year.  We got beat last night but I’m proud to wear a Husky shirt and this team only made me more proud.

On to the defensive line.  I’ll use the same format as I did for the offensive line on this position overview.  The defensive line is a little thin on depth right now and it’s a little bit hard to predict the starters but I’ll give it my best shot.  I’m sure we’ll know more after spring practices about this group.

Starters

  • Defensive Tackles:  Cameron Elisara, 6-3, 280, SR.  Alameda Ta’amu, 6-3, 340, JR.
  • Defensive Ends:  Everette Thompson, 6-6, 265, JR.  Talia Critchon, 6-3, 240, SO.

Cameron Elisara has been sporadic through his Husky career.  I can’t really believe that he’s going to be a senior.  He has struggled with injuries throughout his time here and wasn’t a consistent contributor until last year.  Elisara is as strong as an ox; he is the best weight lifter on the team.  Although he struggled through a series of neck stingers last year, Elisara had his best year as a Husky.  This spring he needs to concentrate on staying healthy and steady improvement.  Cameron has progressed nicely and that should continue. 

Alameda Ta’amu is huge.  Believe it or not, he has actually lost weight since coming to Montlake.  Ta’amu had an interesting year last year.  Through the beginning of the year he was often substituted for a quicker Everette Thompson.  As the year progressed and Elisara dealt with injuries, Ta’amu came on strong.  He had a very strong last two games against WSU and Cal.  If Ta’amu is in good shape and improves his agility he could become an all pac-10 caliber player.  He was too slow against quick offensive lines last year (Oregon and USC come to mind) but if he improves on that he will be U-Dub’s best defensive tackle.

Everette Thompson is good.  He started about 6 games his freshman year and then suffered an injury last year heading into the season.  He was then switched to defensive tackle because of the lack of efficiency that was coming out of that position.  His speed was useful there but now will be switched back to defensive end to make up for the loss of Daniel Teo-Nesheim.  Unfortunately, Thompson suffered an Achilles injury during winter workouts and will be held out of spring practices.  It’s unclear exactly how long Everette will be out; Achilles injuries are nasty.  When Thompson is healthy and on the field he has the most upside of any UW lineman.

Talia Critchon is my starter by default here.  He played last year as a true freshman and was pushed around quite a bit.  He is undersized but coaches like his speed.  This last defensive end position is up for grabs and I’d say Critchon has the early edge because he’s healthy and participating in spring unlike other guys.

The backups

  • Defensive Tackles: Chris Robinson, Semisi Tokolahi, Tyrone Duncan
  • Defensive Ends:  De’Shon Matthews, Andre Pulu, Kalani Aldrich

As you can see, there’s not a ton of depth here.  Chris Robinson didn’t play last year and no one really knows what he can do, watch for his name in the spring.  Tokolahi is a huge guy, 340 lbs., and played during goal line situations as a freshman last year.  He is similar in size to Ta’amu but doesn’t have the speed yet.  He wasn’t entirely healthy throughout the year so that may have had an impact on him.  Tyrone Duncan adds depth but hasn’t seen the field much in his time here.  All of these guys will have a chance to prove themselves at tackle this spring since there simply aren’t enough guys here.

De’Shon Matthews has switched between end and tackle throughout his career here.  Holt said in an interview the other day that Matthews will start at end because of the Thompson injury.  I think Matthews has the ability to surprise here.  Willingham played him out of position as an underweight tackle.  Now, He can take advantage of his speed and doesn’t have to worry about being as heavy.  Andre Pulu is having legal trouble and won’t be participating in spring because of this.  I don’t think Pulu will be on this team come Fall.  Kalani Aldrich has shown potential but has had knee problems.  He will also sit out this spring.

Overall Position:  The defensive line is the biggest cause for concern on this team.  It doesn’t help that three defensive ends are out for spring practice.  3 of our 4 starters could be very good but the Huskies will need someone to step up into that last defensive end position.  The quantity and quality of the depth needs to improve here and will with new freshman.  I could see us playing a couple true freshman on the defensive line which is never ideal.  Maybe this group will surprise me but it could very easily be the weak link of the Huskies positions.

Andrew

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