Tank ready to roll

This spring, one player more than any other on the Husky defense has been a handful for the experienced offensive line to keep away from the football. Whenever the offensive and defensive units have matched up in scrimmage drills, ball carriers and quarterbacks have had number 99 impeding their paths.

Click to view all Spring Football Reports
Terry Johnson, or "Tank" as his friends and teammates call him, has been everywhere this April.

"He's been great getting off of the ball. He's had great punch and had done a nice job for us," said Defensive Coordinator Tim Hundley after practice on Tuesday.

"Where we play him will depend on how other guys play at defensive end. Terry can play end or tackle for us. He just wants to play and he does that with a great motor. We're really excited about him."

One thing is certain: Johnson will start somewhere on the defensive front.

When Johnson moves inside, the defensive ends this spring have been Manase Hopoi and Graham Lasee at the big, or "Husky" end. Both have done well but do not have the combination of power, speed, and most important, game experience that Johnson possesses.

"We're working to see who the best four players are for us up front. If Manase (Hopoi) or anyone else comes through at end, we'll put Terry at tackle. We need his speed and we need really good play at tackle. He gets good push so we're looking at him at both," said Hundley.

Hundley is also hopeful that he'll get a few more bodies to help him on the ends. Houdini Jackson has done yeoman's work at the small, or "REB" defensive end, but behind him is pretty sparse this spring. "We will get Kai (Ellis) back in the fall, we're convinced of that. We feel good about Anthony Kelley as well," said Hundley.

In the meantime, Johnson is making the rounds and making offensive linemen pay.

"I'm playing everything from the nose to defensive end. I'm getting real comfortable on the defensive line," said Johnson.

"Right now I'm 6-4 270, and that's where I want to play. Speed makes up for my lack of size. I can get through those offensive linemen before they can get to me, it's a lot easier for me to get off blocks at this size."

Johnson is the fastest of the defensive linemen with a 4.75 40 to his credit.

The current look on the defensive line, if fall camp were to begin tomorrow, would have Johnson at the "Husky" end position. At least for starters. "That's where I get the reps with the ones, but this week we've been experimenting on the inside. Whatever our defense needs, that's where I want to go," said Johnson.

One game last season in particular showed Johnson where the Husky defense needed to upgrade.

"We now have a lot of speed and that is very important. You saw Miami win it all last year, and look at the speed they had! It just shows you what speed can do. I'm very excited about our quickness this year."

The fact that the Hurricane team that Washington split with over the past two seasons had NINE number one picks over the past two years makes them a pretty good benchmark.

Johnson has that Miami type of speed, and believes that this year's defensive line can be very good. "I line up next to Josh (Miller) or Jerome (Stevens). Camaraderie helps out because it makes your job that much easier. You build trust, and guys like Josh and Jerome are great to play with every day. We walk out onto the field together and say, ‘Let's go, and let's pick it up.' Playing with those guys is really fun, I've been with them since we came in together in the same recruiting class," said Johnson.

Johnson entered Washington as a tight end under the partial qualifier rule, meaning he had to sit out all of the Rose Bowl season while just running with the scout team. Last season was his first and he displayed some good skills on the interior line before a knee injury slowed him.

This spring he's been a different player. "I just got focused. It's my time to go show that I'm a player. A lot of coaches are counting on me, and I want to be accountable to this team," said Johnson.

He is also very motivated to regain his lost year of eligibility from the 2000 season, something he can achieve if he graduates in four years. "I'm on track to earn enough credits in four years. I'm on schedule to do that," said Johnson.

He'll be listed as a junior eligibility-wise this season, and he's also the most active player on the defensive line. Look for the one they call Tank, coming to an offensive backfield near you this fall.

Dawgman.com Top Stories