Foursome Playing Through

First step to rebuilding a once-dominant defense? How about signing four big guys with worlds of athletic talent and handing them off to a long time defensive line coach with a history of turning out NFL players like Randy Hart.

That was the order of business after another sub-par defensive campaign for the Husky football team last season, and less than a week into the 2004 fall camp it is looking like the Dawgs might have struck gold... not just once or twice, but four times.

The lineup of potential impact newcomers on the defensive front includes: Jordan White-Frisbee, a 6-foot-7 monster of a man out of Inglemoor High who pushes the scales at over 300 pounds; Greyson Gunheim, a 6-6, 240-pound physical specimen who only turned 18 in April but has the body of an upperclassman; Erick Lobos, a stout 6-3, 280-pound defensive tackle with a strong bottom half; and Caesar Rayford, a muscular 6-7 multi-sport athlete in great shape who only needs to add weight and strength to his 220-pound frame.

Already, each have made a big enough impression on the practice fields at Husky Stadium and The Evergreen State College to open the eyes of those that have seen them play. Hart, who hasn't exactly had his cupboard stocked with strong, physical players in recent years, said all four of them have a chance to play at some point this fall.

"I'm happy with all those freshmen," said Hart, who is entering his 17th season coaching the defensive line at Washington. "They are exciting young players. They run around and they are very well advanced strength wise and weight wise."

That strength will be a key factor in determining whether they will play.

"You can't put them out there (once the season starts) and get them hurt," continued Hart. "They've got to be strong enough when you put them out there as freshman. If they are strong enough then you go to step two - are they smart enough? If they are strong enough and smart enough then you can play them."

With that little carrot of playing time dangling out in front of this new crop of rabid Dawgs, each of them has sincere hopes of playing as a freshman. And each feels they're on the right path to getting there.

"I think I'm fitting in pretty well. I'm not where I'm supposed to be just yet, but I'm learning the defense," said Lobos, a native of Los Angeles. "This is Washington, and we are going to work. We are going to keep working harder. We've got to bring it up a level. If I do what I'm supposed to do, and I pick it up a little faster, I think I could play come fall."

White-Frisbee, one of the talks of training camp thus far with a huge frame that clogs up the middle, says being a freshman thrust into the rotation isn't easy. He admits feeling a bit over his head during the first few days of camp, but feels the transition is coming along nicely.

What's been the key for the 18-year-old from Kenmore, Wash.?

"You've just got to come out here and prove to the rest of the team that you are able to play at the same level they are, and even if you can't then you've got to show that you want it just as bad as they do," he said. "They've paid their dues, and so you've got to pay yours.

"You can only do the best you can. I'm starting to (feel like I belong). Once you get down to realizing the way each position is supposed to go, it's easier."

For Rayford, a product of Bethel High in Graham, Wash., the move up to the college ranks will undoubtedly mean dedicating plenty of future hours in the weight room. At his current weight, he's one of the most athletic and physically gifted players on the defense, but he's also a good 20-25 pounds underweight.

"They want me to get up to around 245-250," he said. "I'm working out with Steve (Emtman) and Pete (Kaligis) to get stronger. They are about to be my best friends."

Rayford says he has found that he's a person who is able to gain weight pretty quickly. In fact, he's already put on 15 pounds since leaving high school. The rangy end feels the coaching of Hart and the added weight will help him considerably as the season progresses.

"First I have to put the weight on and get a little stronger," said Rayford. "I just need to keep working hard. I've got the technique, the quickness and the speed. I just need to put the weight on."

As for being coached by Hart, Rayford says that was one of the main reasons he came to Washington.

"I wanted to go to the place I was going to fit at," said the freshman. "Washington was that best fit, for both academics and football. It had everything I wanted. They had a good coach in Randy Hart, who I had heard so much about. Academics wise they had one of the best business schools. All that stuff made it the right fit for me."

Those factors especially came into play in the fall when Aaron Klovas, the top offensive lineman in the state and a teammate of Rayford at Bethel, committed to go to Oregon. Despite Klovas' best efforts to draw him to Eugene, Rayford chose to stay home.

"I'm glad to be a Dawg," he said, tugging at the No. 85 on his jersey.

Gunheim, meanwhile, nearly wasn't a Dawg. In fact, he waited until the final weeks before signing day to verbally commit to Washington after first taking recruiting trips to Nebraska, California and Oregon. A bulldozer-like running back at Analy High in Santa Rosa, Calif. as a senior, he doubled as a monster defensive end. The Huskies recruited him as a defensive end, but couldn't get the multi-tooled athlete to commit until some luck bounced their way.

"It was down to Nebraska and here, and then I thought about it," said Gunheim, who at 240 pounds already looks like a player who several other Husky defenders in recent years spent countless hours in the weight room trying to become. "Nebraska lost their coach at the last second and so I just felt like I'd be a better fit here."

The Cornhuskers' loss is - to steal a line from former Husky DT Larry Triplett - "most definitely" the Huskies' gain. Gunheim not only instantly has the best name on the team, but he could very well be the strongest of the four freshman d-linemen.

Trying not to look too far into the future, he says his focus is on simply controlling the factors that he can control and leaving the rest up to the coaching staff.

"It's still tough (learning the playbook)," said Gunheim. "I'm starting to get it in my head now. All I have to do now is just try my best and play."

As for getting on the field this fall as a first-year player? Only time will tell. But the Gunheim knows it isn't going to be handed to him.

"It's tough because you've got to step up, but you've just got to do it," he said.

Rayford echoed those sentiments, adding that the degree of closeness the foursome builds over the coming years will be a determining factor in the level of success they achieve.

"The competition between us is pretty high," he said, acknowledging that each of them wants to be the first to get playing time in a regular season game. "It's real tense and it's real competitive. We talk and try to get together because we are probably going to be the future."

With these four in place - Lobos, White-Frisbee, Rayford and Gunheim - one thing is certain: the future of the defensive line appears brighter than the past. Top Stories