The new Huskies coaching staff wants to change that. And less than two weeks from the season opener, junior tackle Cameron Elisara has emerged as the Dawg most likely to give opposing offenses another lineman to worry about.
“Of course, two is better than one,” Elisara said after Tuesday morning practice. “Hopefully, it’ll be four is better than one. We’re trying to get the whole defensive line going. I think the defensive line as a whole is improved.
“But, let’s say just me: If I started stepping up myself, that’s going to take a lot of pressure off Daniel. He’s going to make a whole lot more plays because then they’re not going to be able to focus solely on one guy, gameplan for one guy. We’ll get a lot more one-on-one opportunities.”
Last season as a junior defensive end, Te’o-Nesheim started all 12 games and was named to the All-Pacific-10 Conference second team. He led Huskies linemen with 65 tackles, ranked sixth in the Pac-10 with 0.67 sacks per game and ninth in the conference with 0.96 tackles for loss per game.
He was enough of a force to draw regular double-teams; however, his teammates seldom made offenses pay for that. The Huskies finished 117th out of 119 Bowl Subdivision teams in rushing defense, 116th in scoring defense, 110th in total defense and 100th in sacks.
Now about to enter his junior year, Elisara believes he’s ready for the breakout season that has been predicted since he graduated from Ferris High School of Spokane, where PrepStar rated him the No. 24 defensive lineman in the nation.
“This is the time when all my work is coming to fruition,” Elisara said. “I finally see myself fitting into the position that I’ve always been working for since I’ve been here. It’s finally starting to become real.
“But once again, I think the biggest thing is I want to keep it going, because camp is just camp. I’ve got to carry it over into the season.”
Elisara won the defensive scout team award as a redshirt in 2006. He moved into the defensive rotation in 2007, playing in 12 of 13 games. Last season, he played in all 12 games and started seven. His 24 tackles ranked 11th on the team.
Now, both he and his new coaches believe he’s ready for the next step.
“I just know that he’s improved immensely,” coach Steve Sarkisian said.
“He’s doing things right and he’s playing with great effort, and we can’t ask for more than that out of him. … Hopefully, that can take some of the heat off of Daniel. If we can get Alameda (Ta’amu) just to stay consistent and be physical, and if we get Darrion Jones going, we’ve got a really good group.”