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The POLYS are back on the defensive line
Malamute, 5 February 2009

I’m satisfied with this class. It’s a better class than I thought the new staff would bring in given the limited amount of time they had and the 0-12 unsettling point.

The number of Californians (13 out of 18) is promising, and the way to go in the future.

So far coach Steve Sarkisian is tracking Mike Stoops' benchmark at Arizona, where it took Stoops five years to restore the program to respectability. Stoops first class was rated 64th in the country; Sarkisian's is rated 69th (data from scout.com). See the benchmark.

And thanks for the Polynesians, Johnny Nansen. I'm sure you played a big role in their recruitment. Defensive line coach Nansen was born in American Samoa, and is said to be a tireless worker. 

Relating to a recruiting trip, Molly Yanity writes in her blog that Sarkisian and "Nansen flew to Honolulu, then Hilo and Maui before taking a red-eye flight back to Seattle. That is the mainland, three islands and back in 24 hours."

The Huskies had 11 Polynesians on their roster in 2003, according to ESPN's Ted Miller back when he worked for the P-I. By my count there are 14 Polynesian's on the 2009 Huskies' roster, including six incoming players. See the list below, along with the table of defensive linemen. Also, see Jodatoa's Polynesian football blog.

Obviously not all the defensive linemen listed in the table will end up at that position. Some may be better suited at linebacker for instance.

One of the most famous Samoans to play for the Huskies, Marques Tuiasosopo, incorporated the values of most Samoan’s -- unselfishness, hard work and a respect for authority -- the fa'a Samoa, the Samoan Way, Miller wrote back in 2000. Samoans have succeeded in college football to an extraordinary degree, Miller continued. (See his article, “Marques in the middle.”)

Go, Tongans, Samoans, and Hawaiians. Joust and kid among yourselves about tribal supremacy, but remember you’re all Dawgs in the end, and whether it's a speed, bull, rip, swim, shuck or shiver, you guys must deliver.

Farm boy's cheat sheet: In a shuck move, you start out by engaging the blocker heads up like in a bull rush. Get the fellow going backwards. Once he is and is a little off balance, grab his jersey and pull him forwards towards you as if you were shucking corn. As he gets going forward, just step aside and go around him. Duh!

Back in 2003, the D-Line featured 6 Polynesians: Manase Hopoi, Wilson Afoa, Tui Alailefaleula, Mike Mapuolesega, Donny Mateaki, and Tui Sa'au. Strangely enough, Mapuolesega's name was misspelled on the back of his jersey at Picture Day 2003. I remember him as Mike Mapu.

The son of parents from the South Pacific island of Tonga, Hopoi me told at one of the Picture Days that the reason he was able to get around offensive lineman Rob Meadow in the spring game was because Meadow hadn’t caught onto his “tricks.” Ah, "shucks," he might have said. ;-)

Nansen's D-line will feature 9 Polynesians: Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Kalani Aldrich, Senio Kelemete, Alameda Ta'amu, Everrette Thompson, Talia Crichton, Kimo Makalua, Johnny Tivao, and Semisi Tokolahi.

Crichton has been compared to Hopoi by one scout and deemed a "fantastic pass rusher," by Sarkisian. Unfortunately, he's just a freshman.

In that vein, losing Ryan Davis to Cal was huge. He and Tivao, both JC transfers, would have jumpstarted the defensive line next season. Now it looks like that stopping the run will be a major problem for the new coaching staff to address in 2009, unless a player like Craig Noble realizes his promise, along with Tivao (5-11, 330) who is a two-gap player with a low-pad level. Low pad level? Think Zach Tuiasosopo at fullback, threatening to ISO on a linebacker.

The 2008 Huskies yielded 240.58 yards per game on the ground, finishing 117th out of 119 teams in FBS football. The Huskies finished 100th in the country in sacks and 115th in tackles for a loss. The Dawgs failed to register a sack until the fifth game of last season.

For me, optimism for next season is always tempered when confronted by last season's statistics.

Last season, the Huskies needed to shore up a defensive line that had lost 5 of its 6 front-line players. This upcoming season, almost all the defensive line returns, minus the notable exception of Johnie Kirton, who played in 12 games and registered 27 tackles.

Three young freshmen were given the proverbial baptism of fire on the defensive line last season: then-18-year olds Alameda Ta'amu, Everette Thompson, and Serio Kelemete, all of Samoan descent. Scout.com rated each of the three players 4 stars coming out of high school. However, they proved to be boys among men because of the speed of the game and their lack of physical maturity. Kelemete sat out a month of the season due to an injury. Thompson registered two sacks last season. See "Fresh hope for the Huskies' future."

DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim led the team in sacks and tackles for a loss, posting 8 and 11.5, respectively. Back for his senior season, Te'o-Nesheim should be one of the top defensive linemen on the west coast.

Of the returning defensive linemen in the Pac-10, Te'o-Nesheim finished second in sacks per game (.67) last year behind Dexter Davis of ASU (.92). Both will be seniors this year.

DT Cameron Elisira, who played in 12 games, registered 24 total tackles last season, second best to Te'o-Nesheim, who led UW's defensive linemen with a humongous 65. Elisira looks for a break-out season this year.

In the table below, there are six 4-star players on the 16-man roster of defensive linemen and nine Polynesians, highlighted in purple.

 
P Name Yr Ht Wt Rtd GP TT
DT Cameron Elisira RJR 6-3 289 4-star 12 24
DE Darion Jones SR 6-3 230 2-star 12 17
DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim SR 6-4 263 3-star 12 65
DL D'Shon Mathews JR 6-4 260 4-star 8 4
DE Kalani Aldrich RSO 6-7 240 3-star 5 1
DL Serio Kelemete SO 6-4 260 4-star 8 4
DL Alameda Ta'amu SO 6-4 330 4-star 12 21
DE Everrette Thompson SO 6-6 255 4-star 11 18
DT Tyrone Duncan SO 6-2 278 3-star    
DL Nick Wood SO 6-2 275 3-star    
DL Craig Noble RFR 6-3 285 4-star    
DE Talia Crichton FR 6-4 240 2-star    
DE Kimo Makalua FR 6-2 225 3-star    
DT Chris Robinson FR 6-1 270 2-star    
DT Johnny Tivao JC 5-11 340 3-star    
DT Semisi Tokalahi FR 6-3 290 2-star    

Legend: GP=Games played; TT = total tackles and purple highlight = Polynesian descent.

Polynesians on the current roster:

Daniel Te'o-Nesheim
Kalani Aldrich
Serio Kelemete
Gavin Silva
Alameda Ta'amu
Everrette Thompson
Mykenna Ikehara
Trenton Tuiasosopo
Talia Crichton, incoming
Kimo Makalua, incoming
Johnny Tivao, incoming
Semisi Tokalahi, incoming
Andru Pulu, incoming
Daniel Mafoe, incoming

Richard Linde can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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