Frosh to watch this spring

It was a huge coup for the Husky coaching staff when Donny Mateaki gave his commitment to Washington. A lot was expected from the defensive end from Iolani High School. An injury has kept him off the field until now, but he is anxious to show what he can do this spring.

Head coach Rick Neuheisel redshirted all but one true freshman last season and hopes to reap the benefits during 2003. Though Donny Mateaki has been through an entire season of Husky football, he is still an untested rookie. His 2002 campaign was spent rehabbing a shoulder injury that first occurred during his high school career.

"It's been a long time. I've been out since October. Putting on the pads is just extra weight, I feel a little bit slower," said Donny after practice on Saturday.

Mateaki hasn't seen the field since early last season, but it only took him a few minutes to get reacquainted with the pads. "It takes a couple plays. The first few plays with pads you get used to it and after that you just have to go," said the 260-pounder.

Defensive line coach Randy Hart has been impressed with the redshirt freshman to be. "He's a hard worker. He spent spring break here instead of going home and looked at video so he would improve," commented Hart.

"I expect him to play this year, I've got him in my plans."

Mateaki, a Honolulu native, tells the spring break story a different way.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't have enough money to go back home. So I stayed back here and got some work done."

Well, even if the motivation wasn't proper, the end result is.

"I go with coach Hart. He tells me what I should be looking at. I'm not a video specialist, so I rely on coach Hart to send me in the right direction."

Husky fans may hope that the video sessions in turn produce a great product on the field, but don't go thinking Donny has been spending all his time sitting in a dark room staring at a screen. Mateaki has been working hard to regain the weight he lost during his injury. "I'm 6-5, 260. I went down to about 245 when I got hurt, so I've gained about fifteen since then. I was 265 coming out of high school. They want me to add about ten or fifteen more."

Mateaki will probably get to his weight goal, but the question is where the extra mass will go. He is already chiseled and there doesn't look to be any extra body fat on him. Husky coaches are obviously excited to have a defensive prospect that already has the body to compete at the Pac-10 level. Ten or fifteen more pounds would put Mateaki in the 270-275 range, a difficult proposition for offensive tackles that will match up against him.

That may seem a bit heavy for an end, but Mateaki hasn't been told his definite position.

"They've told me everything. Husky, REB, Tackle. I don't really care. As long I get on the field it's alright with me."

It is likely that Mateaki will get his first shot at either the "Husky" end or the REB position. The group that will fill those positions is going to be highly competitive both now in the spring and in the coming fall.

"Manase Hopoi is number one, I'm number two, Savicky is number three and Mapu just came in so they threw him in the back. All four of us are pretty good so it's going to be about who brings it each day," said Mateaki.

"My goal is to get better every day. Go in and watch film, see what I'm doing wrong and try to improve on that the next day."

With the physical skills, the work ethic, and the most striking recruiting file photo in history, Mateaki's best football is surely in front of him. Now he just needs to go out and get after it. Top Stories