Don't be fooled by his 21 tackles this season; the 6-foot-3, 333-pound senior is a prototypical 3-4 NFL nose tackle and likely first-round draft pick. ESPN Scouts Inc. rates Ta'amu 17th among players eligible for the 2012 draft.
"He does a lot of things well," center Khaled Holmes said. "He is a great player and will be great at the next level."
Even when Stanford ran for a school-record 446 yards in a 63-21 rout of the Huskies, most of that damage came scheming away from Ta'amu.
What sets Ta'amu apart is he can do more than merely occupy blockers, capable of exploding through the line and creating penetration, as demonstrated by his 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks this season.
"He can be powerful at times, and then he can be quick off the ball too," head coach Lane Kiffin said. "He's caused people a lot of problems over the years. Hopefully we'll be able to contain him."
Kiffin said USC would rely on cut blocks in an attempt to neutralize Ta'amu.
"We've got to make sure that we do that so he's getting up off the ground all day long," Kiffin said. "Whenever you play dominant defensive tackles like that, that's usually the plan that we go to."
"You just got to stay true to your technique and stay on him because he finishes every play," Holmes added.
The USC offensive line has been tremendous in pass protection, allowing just five sacks this season, and is rounding into form in run blocking, averaging 182 yards rushing in its last four games.
Holmes credited the improving chemistry and communication. The inexperienced and unfamiliar group, which added freshman left guard Marcus Martin against Syracuse, has now started the same five players in each of the last seven games.
"I think we're coming together, playing better each week," Holmes said. "We obviously have a lot of room for improvement, but I think we've come together a little bit."
Farmer Back To Receiver?
Running back George Farmer said his sprained ankle is 90 to 95 percent healthy, but what was more interesting is where the freshman said he would like to play going forward.
Farmer said he would like to move back to wide receiver next year, the position he played while emerging as one of the nation's most heralded recruits at Gardena (Calif.) Serra.
"I don't want to look too far in the future. I want to focus on right now, finishing this season up. When spring comes, we'll evaluate that then," he said.
Coaches moved Farmer to running back at the end of Sept. looking for more explosive plays from that position. He has carried the ball five times for 15 yards, fumbling once, and catching two passes for 23 yards in three games. Most of Farmer's work has come on special teams.
Kiffin still believes Farmer will be a dangerous weapon at both receiver and running back.
"He'll always give us the ability to do both with him, which is very unique, especially for a big tailback," Kiffin said. "If we can get him comfortable in our system, especially after this spring coming up, he'll be a big-time matchup issue for people."
-Cornerback Torin Harris (shoulder) "did some things," Kiffin said, his most extensive work since suffering a nerve injury at Arizona State.
Kiffin was hopeful the redshirt sophomore might be available against Washington, which would bolster limited numbers at defensive back.
-Defensive tackle DaJohn Harris (ankle) did not practice.