Cameron Elisara - The next tough Husky

As the Washington Huskies endeavor to return to bowl games and winning seasons, it is no secret their need to get nastier in the trenches. Toward that goal, enter Cameron Elisara. The 275-pound freshman landed in Seattle last year carrying the reputation for being a smart, hard-working tough guy. It was most welcome at Montlake.

Elisara also arrived on UW's campus surrounded by rumors of being bitter toward the Washington State Cougars. Many people thought he must have been angry at being shunned. This speculation stemmed from two key facts. For starters, his father Matt Elisara was a key member of the 1981 WSU team that went to the Holiday Bowl. Secondly, Cameron Elisara grew up in Spokane rooting for the Cougars-- even taking a bus trip to Pasadena as a third-grader in order to see WSU take on Michigan in the 1998 Rose Bowl. Therefore, by the time he was garnering much attention as a junior defensive tackle at Ferris high school, it seemed a no-brainer that he would be destined for Pullman.

But many people were confounded when Elisara verbally committed to be a Husky. After the inevitable speculation started to spread via the media and internet, there suddenly was a rumor that he was bitter toward the Cougars. But when recently asked of his sentiments toward WSU, Elisara conveyed nothing but good things toward his father's alma mater.

"That's a thing that has confused me," he said. "I have seen reports from people that have never talked to me or took a quote from me. These people went and made up the fact that I was resentful toward WSU. But no, there have been no hard feelings at all. It's true that they didn't recruit me as hard as some other schools. But that was okay, because I was completely comfortable with the schools that were recruiting me. Toward the end, I could have gone to WSU because they had an offer for me. But I turned it down. You know, I am completely happy where I am. I also have some friends on the Cougars, and I wish them nothing but the best."

As he began red-shirting the 2006 season at Washington, Elisara was quoted as saying that one of his strengths was the ability to outsmart his opponents. This past week, he was asked to provide a specific example of ways he is able to gain a mental advantage.

"My theory going into a series is that I like to mix up the physical and the mental," he said. "I will give them a few straight-arm rushes, and then when they are completely fighting back, I will give them a finesse move. I mean, I don't know, you've asked me a question that's kind of tough to answer specifically. But the thing is to learn the opponent's tendencies as the game goes along, and then adjust."

Speaking of adjustments, Elisara laughed when asked about the travails of acclimating to college football as compared to his high school days in Spokane.

"I remember the first thing that got my attention and slapped me in the face as a Husky was the first play we ran when we had pads on," he said. "I realized immediately that the speed of the game here is incredible. I also realized that everybody here is either the same size as me or bigger than me. Everybody was just as fast as the fastest guy that I had ever gone against before in high school. And then halfway through the season last year (in a scrimmage), both our center and guard got under my pads a little bit and knocked me down pretty good. It was Juan Garcia and Clay Walker. You might say that was my `Welcome to College Football' moment."

Now that he has been away from home for a year and half and experienced college life, Elisara was asked to sum up the changes he has seen in himself.

"In general I feel like I have become more of an individual," he said. "I feel like I have become stronger as a person, as an athlete and as a student. I feel like I can depend on myself a lot more. That's more for school and personal stuff than for football. But those are the changes that I see in myself."

Elisara may have been Washington's scout team player of the year last year, but there was another freshman that had people frothing with excitement. Of course, that player was redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Locker. As a defensive lineman, Elisara has seen Locker from a prime vantage point, and he is just as optimistic as everyone else.

"I have only gotten to go against him a couple of times, in the scout scrimmage games," said Elisara. "But I'll tell you, it's frustrating going against Jake. Because what I am used to is that I break through the line, pull off a great pass rush move against the o-lineman, get into the backfield and grab a hold of the quarterback and take him down. But with Jake, he kind of taunts you. You break through the line and he's right there in front of you. You try to grab him, but he breaks free with his speed and explosiveness. Just like that, he is gone! He's really frustrating. It's almost like he's teasing you. Everyone has got high expectations for Jake, and I have seen him and he will easily live up to those expectations. He really has the work ethic to be great. I have seen it first-hand on a regular basis."

As a final question, Elisara was asked which defensive teammates he is most excited about in terms of potential. His voice was resolute as he talked up two fellow Dawgs.

"In terms of potential in the context of team," he said, "I would say there are two players. The first would be defensive tackle Derek Kosub from Nevada. He and I made a lot of noise against the offensive line this past year. I think that it will be fun playing side-by-side with him in the interior line for the next few years. Also, a good friend of mine is linebacker Donald Butler, who played last year a as a true freshman. I am really excited to see how he develops. As far as the team, you can feel the excitement with all the guys. We're all looking forward to the Syracuse game, and getting out there and showing what we can do."
Derek Johnson can be reached at Top Stories