It Starts Up Front

Not only is the Huskies' tackling to date leaving something to be desired, but a rare few are taking the blunt end of the shots when they are delivered. Mason Foster, Nate Williams and Mesphin Forrester have already eclipsed the 20-tackle mark. The only player on the defensive line to get into double-digit tackles is Daniel Te'o-Nesheim with 17.

True freshmen Senio Kelemete, Alameda Ta'amu, and Everrette Thompson were the biggest guys on the field less than a year ago. Now they are competing against older, bigger, and stronger men that have been in college for years. Add in Kalani Aldrich who is a red shirt freshman, and you have a group of talented, but inexperienced pups.

"I don't want to blame it all on them (defensive line), but I do think the most stress is on them because they are so young," UW Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell said Tuesday. "You look up and you see 50 (Aldrich), 93 (Kelemete), 74 (Ta'amu) and 92 (Thompson) in the game at the same time. That's tough. That's tough on that group,"

But the undisputed fact is that regardless of age, the defensive line has to step up and make tackles to relieve pressure off of other players on the team. And after an 0-3 start, they have to do it now.

"You never want the safeties and corners to have that many tackles definitely, you don't want them banged on the whole game," said back up defensive tackle Johnnie Kirton. Kirton is the only fifth-year senior on the DL, a tight end convert specifically moved to defense to provide some depth and experience. "We're (defensive linemen) taking more pride in that and the linebackers, especially after the last couple games, there will be some changes."

The other three starters on the line besides Te'o-Nesheim in the Huskies' 4-3 attack are Kelemete, Cameron Elisara, and Darrion Jones. Take away Te'o-Nesheim, and the rest have 14 tackles in three games. With so few tackles between the linemen it's no wonder why opposing teams are averaging 5.6 rush yards per attempt. "The first three teams, they have not been pushover teams, they have been good teams to start off with, that might have something to do with it," said Elisara when questioned about the lack of tackles on the line. "We haven't been doing our job as well as we should have."

The other amazing statistic is that there has not been one sack so far this year. Without pressure opposing quarterbacks are having copious amounts of time to get their passes off. UW's opponents are averaging 9.6 yards per pass this year. Defensive line coach Randy Hart thinks that while sacks are nice he still isn't in a panic yet. "Basic fundamentals, we haven't accomplished basic fundamentals yet," he said, stressing youth as a major component.

"As long as we keep working hard at pass rushing during practice we'll get a sack," said backup defensive end De'Shon Matthews. The bye week should give the defensive line some extra repetitions to work on getting into the backfield and disrupting the scout team's offense.

And they'll need the work as they prepare for a gritty Stanford run game. Stanford's offense is averaging 131.3 yards a game on the ground, putting them sixth in Pac-10 in rushing. Right now it's what they do best. With their run-oriented offense and Washington's inexperienced line this could prove to be a tricky test. "We're pretty focused on stopping the run the next couple games," said Kirton.

Without change the linebackers and secondary will continue to have to make most of the tackles, which leads to more risk of injury. With Nate Williams, Darin Harris, Jason Wells, Bryon Davenport, Quinton Richardson and Victor Aiyewa already banged up at the safety and cornerback positions protecting them will become even more vital. The injuries have already forced running back Johri Fogerson to switch sides and earn his first start against a top-three team in the country with only eight days' worth of preparation. He ended up tied for tops in tackling against Oklahoma with nine stops. First-year saftey Tripper Johnson, a former minor league baseball player, already has two college starts in the first three games of his college football career. The youth along the line is exposing the youth in the back end.

After making 13 tackles against BYU in week two, Williams had to persevere through the following week to get ready for Oklahoma. "Look at Nate Williams," Donatell said. "He missed two days of practice last week. We barely got him ready for this game, and he switched a safety position and he's helping to guide a young group out there. And you have to keep supporting a guy like that. He had a couple tackles where if he's full he'll make. I truly mean that. He played through it, and that's a positive to me."

The line's play is having a domino effect on the defense. The other team's running backs get past the line, the linebackers get blocked and the secondary has to try and clean up the mess, resulting in either missed tackles, meaning the potential for more risk of injury. Getting consistent pressure on the other team will not only mask injury issues but will also help turn the Cardinal into a one-dimensional offense. If they can do that, Washington stands a good chance of beating Stanford. Top Stories