Hard tackles, pretty interceptions. Those are plays that stick on video, ones that get replayed when a Husky Legend saunters onto the field for a salute during home games in the fall.
Theres not much highlight-worthy in the middle of the defensive line, where nose tackle Alameda Taamu is trying to forge a roadblock. Hes really a silent assist man. Nothing shiny about that.
Once he fills the middle with his 6-foot-3, 330-pound frame, absorbing two offensive linemen, the reverberations for the Washington defense are positive.
While Ta’amu fills the middle, the Huskies are trying to seal the edges to keep the ball inside. Taamus ability to have two linemen worry about him also allows clear views and running lanes for linebackers. Cort Dennison, youre welcome.
Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian points to Taamus late-season uptick as the starting point for the Huskies ability to stop the run at the end of last year. No coincidence they won the final four games of the season, including a demoralization of Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. The Huskers ran 41 times for 91 yards, an average of 2.2 yards per carry.
Taamu had a mere two tackles in the Holiday Bowl, one of which was a sack. But a holding call against Nebraska in the end zone as a result of trying to stop Taamu brought a safety in the fourth quarter. Taamus line: two tackles, two points. No one on defense had more influence.
Hes still rumbling around at 330 pounds this spring, the size of his affable personality the only thing comparable to his mass. Well, that and offensive lineman Colin Porter. Taamu says Porter is the only Washington lineman he feels can deal with his strength.
Though that could be read as arrogant, its not. Its likely fact, one pointed out by Taamu without prodding. Hell also happily tell you how much better center Drew Schaefer is. How hes blown away by fellow lineman Sione Potoae.
He refers to Hauoli Jamora as the little freshman All-American! Hes hopeful Washington becomes the best get-off line in the game, springing to action at the snap. He even claims, luckily with some levity, Lawrence Lagafuaina, a 6-foot, 344-pound redshirt freshman, is creeping up behind him and could take his job (that is not happening).
Prior to the late-season unified effort, Taamu and the defensive line dealt with several injuries. There was also another issue they resolved late.
As a D line, we just all came together, Taamu said. We just felt if we worked together and trusted each other on the line, we could do big things together.
Expectations are high for the senior nose tackle this season. Defensive line coach Johnny Nansen and Sarkisian made a similar response when asked what Taamu should be in 2011.
I think he should be an all-conference player, to be honest with you, Nansen said. He has all the potential. You look at the last two games, he basically dominated those games.
Thats what Im telling him every day in the huddle, If youre going to be an All-American, you have to play like it. You have to push him and I think hes starting to respond.
Id like to think he should really be an All-Pac-10 player for us, Sarkisian said. Thats the way he played the second half of the season.
If thats the case, big things on defense could be a direct result of the big man.