VIDEO: UW DL Coach Jeff Choate on Day 17

Washington Defensive Line Coach Jeff Choate spoke to the media Monday on day 17 of Huskies Fall Camp, and he talked about the defensive front rotation, those who have been standing out, the youngsters that might play, and he also touched on some special teams questions regarding the kicking game and return game.

What’s the mood of the DL heading into the opener? - “I think just like anybody would be at this stage of camp they are excited to start doing a little bit of game plan work. But we’ve got to rein them in and remind them that we’re still worried about ourselves, focusing on the details of our assignment. But I do think it’s coming together. We’re starting to solidify our starting 11 and our base package and our nickel package. I think there’s been some leaders emerge, which has been a very positive thing for us. Throughout the course of camp that’s always something you’re looking for. And we’ve had some young guys that have made some strides. So we’re pleased with that.”

You mentioned leaders emerging - “I think that’s kind of a combination of two things. Number one, their familiarity with our expectations has definitely helped. Our summer workouts, our prp’s, you could really tell that they understood what we expected out of them this year. Last year it was kind of that feeling out process. They stepped into things a lot more ready to understand what we wanted them to do. That was a real positive for us. Guys like Taniela Tupou, Jarett Finau, guys that have been around for a while, did an awesome job with the defensive front. Specifically I’m attuned to that, of course. And then Will Dissly, a young guy that is kind of a natural leader that is a real organized guy and really intelligent and can kind of help those younger guys if they have questions about scheme.”

Number 8 (Benning Potoa'e) looks a lot like the old Number 8 - “The sky’s the limit with him. He’s starting to understand some of the concepts and understand our language a little bit more. When he goes, he’s got heavy hands and he can do a good job setting the edge and is developing pass rush skills. There’s definitely some physical resemblance. We’re hoping that turns into being exactly the same thing we got out of Hau, but that’s high expectations. We know that’s a ways away. But very, very pleased with where he’s come from, especially the last four or five practices.”

On the whole, will this unit be less splashy but more solid? - “We were so young in the back end a year ago and had all this experience up front. Now it’s kind of filtered throughout the defense, so I think there could be more steady play. Definitely one of the things we focused on as a staff in the off-season was trying to do eliminate those explosive plays in the pass game. And we feel like we’ve made strides there.”

Is Benning a guy we could see out there at Boise? - “It’s a really good question. We’re going to have what we call a ‘Roll Call’ meeting with all of our guys in about three days. One of the things we’re doing tonight as a staff is getting together and figuring out who are the guys that potentially have the ability to play. There’s going to be a couple of different categories. There’s going to be guys where it’s no question. He’s ready to go. Where can he fit in and help us right now? And then there’s going to be that category of guys where, as the season progresses, injuries occur and we’ve got to keep this guy warm. We’ll have that conversation tonight and move forward with the players in the next couple of days.”

Do you think any of the true frosh will play along the d-line? - “I think while they’re young…we’ve got redshirt freshmen and sophomores that are going to play, I don’t anticipate any of our true freshmen playing. The offensive and defensive lines are a little unique in that regard. It does take time to develop physically that strength they need to be able to hold up in the trenches. But I am pleased. Ricky McCoy is a guy who came in a little heavy but he’s really started to flash the last couple of days. We have a walk-on from Federal Way, Jared Pulu, who just fell in our laps, and that kid has a lot of upside. We’re really pleased with some of those guys."

Dissly, Qualls, Mathis along your front three? - “I’d say probably throw Tupou in the mix as well. I would see us playing in the interior three guys I see us playing a rotation of eight guys. I’d throw Greg Gaines in that mix, I’d throw Vita Vea in that mix as well. We’re going to be a little bit more ‘hockey shift’ style. We’re going to try and get those guys to play at an elite level for 3-7 snaps and roll guys in. We’re probably not going to ask our nose to play 80 snaps like Danny did against Hawaii a year ago. And that’s okay. Those guys will get to that point as they become more mature playing college football.”

On how far Vita Vea has come - “He physically flashes; he’s kind of a ‘wow’ guy. With any young player it’s developing that consistency. But the one thing that’s really impressed me…this is a young man who had to sit out an academic redshirt year, was a partial qualifier out of high school - he was on the Dean’s list here a year ago. Okay, so what can this guy handle? He’s been awesome. He’s figured out how to study, both on and off the field, and that’s really elevated his play and makes him more valuable to us because he’s a guy that can play some tackle and some nose. That’s probably what you’re going to see. You’ll see him, Tani, Will, playing a couple different positions. That’s going to help our defense.”

What about some of the guys on that fringe, like Turpin and Jaylen Johnson? - “I think they’re going to play. I think they’re in that 8-9 man rotation. Right now Joe (Mathis) is a big-time splash player. He’s going to make some things happen, but he plays with such a high motor we’ve got to have a quality guy behind him and really that’s a place where Jaylen has stepped up his game. I see him being a guy that’s going to give us good downs behind Joe. And I see Turp the same way at tackle. I think he’s really made strides. From a year ago when I got here a year ago to now, he’s not even the same person.”

Feel good right now about the kicking and punting game? - “Yeah. Number one, Korey struggled early in camp, and he’s had a really good last couple days. So he’s in a good groove right now. He’s in a good spot. I think he got the baptism by fire a year ago and now he understands what he’s getting himself into. He’s ready to go. Cam is as advertised; he’s a very consistent kicker. And the guy that’s had a really good camp is Tristan (Vizcaino). He’s got a live leg. He’s improved his kickoffs; he’s pushed Cameron every step of the way. He’s competing right there for that job of placekicker, so that’s going to make all those guys better. And he’s a quality backup for us right now at punter. So he might be the most valuable guy on that unit right now because he has so much versatility.”

Tristan as the kickoff guy? - “I think he’ll probably handle the kickoff duties out of the gate. Cam’s actually worked on it and has done a nice job on that as well. I think we’ve got a nice little mix right there in terms of those guys. Our snappers, Luke Hutchison and Ryan Masel, have done a really nice job.”

Replacing John Ross as the main kickoff returner? - “I think there’s a couple guys. One is number 32 (Budda Baker), we’d like to get him going a little bit. There’s been a mix of guys. Working some guys, like Jomon Dotson, who had some of those duties in the spring for us. Myles Gaskin, who has flashed on offense and we’re mixing him in there a little bit back there right now. Jaydon Mickens…just trying to decide on who that guy is going to be. Chico McClatcher is another guy in the mix. We’ve got four or five options and as we get closer to game time we’ll make a decision.”


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