Pre-Spring Q&A - Johnny Nansen

Johnny Nansen (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

Dawgman.com spoke with Washington Defensive Line Coach Johnny Nansen on the eve of UW's spring football campaign, and he updated us on all his players, as well as what Husky fans should look to from the DL as they come together the next 15 practices.

Kalani Aldrich:
"We're still waiting on him, as far as getting cleared for his knee. I don't know. We still haven't heard. We'll know in a week or so his status. It's a painful deal. Speaking from experience myself, if it doesn't work out for the kid, he's going to be successful in life. But if he makes it back, he's got a long, long way to climb. He was limited all through the year. As much as we wanted to play him because he had some experiences in the past, it was out of his control as far as the injury and things like that. When he did come in the bowl game, he made some plays for us. And it wasn't a surprise; Kalani capable of making plays for us."


Talia Crichton:
"He's still working. We might have him for spring ball. He's still working on getting his knee back. He had surgery about a month ago, and he's rehabbing really well. He's doing a great job in the weight room so far, and he's gaining a little weight. Eventually Talia is going to be a guy that's going to come in and help us out with our depth.

"When you look at Talia's situation, you're looking at a kid that really, in the last six games or more, he didn't play. So he needs the spring under his belt. Any time you don't get that spring…and look at Everrette, for example…he's going to be behind coming in. So he needs to be in spring, and he understands that, and I think he'll be back."


Andrew Hudson:
"I think Andrew is improving in every area. We're expecting him to have a great spring. He's having a great winter right now in the weight room, and put a little weight on. I think the best thing that ever happened to Andrew was redshirting and learning the defense, and things like that. We're expecting big and better things from Andrew in the spring."

On what kind of DE Hudson projects:
"We're just trying to find a way to get him on the field. If you have Andrew just focus on one position and give him a chance to be on the field and be a pass-rushing guy that we're missing, I think that's what we're trying to identify as a staff. We need to find a role for him, because he can do that.

"We'd like him to be at least at 240 or 250 to play that strong end position. His motor, that's the one thing you can't put a size on. He's a worker, he's a great kid, and I think he's going to help us a lot this spring."

On when the coaches feel he can get to that weight:
"I think by the end of the summer, he'll be there."


Hauoli Jamora:
"He's having a great winner. Hau'oli is working really hard, and the success that he had in the season is really helping guys like Josh Shirley and Hud (Andrew Hudson) with their work ethic and their development. He's going to be here, he's not going home…football is very important for Hau'oli, and we're very pleased. I'm glad we have him."

On what he had to improve on:
"He had to get stronger. Hau'oli, obviously we would have loved to redshirt him, but he had to play. We didn't have anybody else. He had to get stronger, he had to put on weight. He has to get faster and more flexible…we asked Hau'oli to drop (in coverage) a lot, and that doesn't come natural for him. Those are the things he needed to get better at."

On others along the DL following his lead:
"No doubt. And it's helping with his leadership and how he works, because people are starting to pick up on that. People are starting to follow the way he works. We always compare him to Danny (Daniel Te'o-Nesheim), and that's who he is. That was the thing that was very attractive to coach (Nick) Holt and myself…if he was 6-4, 6-5, 6-6, a lot of schools around the country would have recruited him. But he's not that. But he was just as good as (Kona) Schwenke was, coming out of high school."


Lawrence Lagafuaina:
"Lawrence is coming around. Lawrence's body has completely changed from when he first got here. Lawrence still needs to learn how to work, and having 'Meda (Alameda Ta'amu) back, and having 'Meda around and seeing the change that 'Meda has done with himself is really an eye-opener for Lawrence. If you look at Lawrence now, he's dropped a lot of weight and his body has formed into a football player's body. He's got a lot of talent, but he still has to learn the game. But he's going to be around, and hopefully he can help us out. We've got a good prospect on our hands.

"When Lawrence first got here, he was close to 350. Now he's down to 335, around there. But I think he's going to lose more weight as he starts to understand more and starts to play. You've been to 'Aiea…he didn't understand how to lift weights, he didn't know his diet and nutrition and things like that, but he's starting to understand the importance of that stuff. You can see the change…remember when he first got here with two-a-days compared to now, it's been a big change.

"He's getting better, and he's so strong. But if we can get Lawrence back to where he was when he first came in here at camp, maybe a little stronger…you're going to look at a guy and say, 'Man, wow. He's got all the ability'. But weight is the one thing that is his biggest problem right now. But I think he'll get better as it goes."


Sione Potoae:
"Sione is getting bigger, and he's getting stronger. He's getting faster. He's another guy that's having a great winter. Coach Lew (Ivan Lewis) has done a great job working on his explosiveness, and he's improving. His numbers have gone up. Obviously we were looking for a great winter from Sione, and you can count on Sione being on one of the guys we're counting on for next year.

"Here's a kid that was strong in his upper body, but his lower body wasn't quite there. As we look at his numbers in the weight room, he's really improving, and his flexibility is getting better. It's pretty impressive. He'll be a 500-pounder (bench) when it's all said and done. Easy."

On the difficulty he faced in achieving expectations from the start:
"I think that Sione's biggest problem was that he was still learning the game. And when you watch the tape over and over again, he's a kid that wasn't allowed to redshirt, but if you look at the depth and the injuries we suffered during the season and at the end of the season…Sione was going on a run. The playing experience helped him for next year, but he needs to continue to develop. He needs to learn to play the game and the schemes and things like that. Once he gets that, I think he'll be a great player."

On where he projects:
"Right now at 3 (technique), but he's a kid, if, he's big enough, could easily be a nose guard. He could be a great nose guard because of his quickness and how powerful he is. But right now, with the size and all that…and again, it goes back to a kid that's trying to learn how to play the game, so we're trying to focus on having him play one position and not moving him back and forth. It is a different type of scheme that you're facing, and the one thing you want to do is lose confidence in their ability. You just want them to make plays and play football.

"After a while, here's a kid that was really concerned about his performance during the season. You could see that his confidence wasn't quite where we wanted it to be. But again, it goes back to how young he was. It's a common thing. Kids question their ability to do things, and obviously the confidence goes with it. As he gets older and stronger and starts to get more reps and plays every down, you'll start to see a different player."


Chris Robinson:
"Obviously the first thing for Chris is that he has to get healthy (knee). He's coming along fairly strong, but it's the same thing. Chris is a kid that, when you look at the film, he was one of the most productive guys we had up front. Chris understands how to play the game. He's gotten bigger and stronger. If he's healthy, he's a guy that's going to help us out. You look at the snaps and how many snaps for 'Meda, we need somebody else to go in there and get 'Meda out of the game when we need to. And I think Chris is that guy, because now he's got some experience under his belt."

On any off-season development:
"He's gotten bigger. He's about 10 pounds heavier than he was at the end of the year."

On the UW coaches thinking he could be a Mike Patterson-type player:
"I think going in, that's exactly who we compared him to. Watching him in high school and recruiting him, coach Holt and I felt the same thing, but injuries have been the biggest problem that Chris has faced to even reach that potential. And I'm not saying he's going to be a first-round draft pick, but he's got enough wiggle to be that guy - especially with what we're doing. As he gets healthier, you never know. He could be a guy that could help us…but again, he was the most productive back-up that we had."

On what he'll be able to do during spring:
"We'll know better in a week or two what he can and can't do. But right now it's to rest to get his knee healthy."


Josh Shirley:
"This spring is going to be big for him. He's a natural…he's a freak in the weight room. His numbers are outrageous. When you see him work out, he's got everything you would want in a football player - other than maintaining the weight. He's got to gain some weight, but he might be that guy that we're missing. That's why spring is so important for him, because he's so raw. We have to continue to develop him into a guy that can come in and give us something on third downs."

On Shirley's athleticism:
"He's a guy that can run a 4.4 and jump a 39-40-inch vertical. That type of kid. He's got all that. Bench press 400 pounds, squat 500…his potential is unbelievable."

On where they want him to be, size-wise:
"At the end, ideally we'd like to have him at 235-240. He varies. One day he might be 225, another 222. Ivan (Lewis) and his staff have done a great job of trying to maintain the weight on these kids." :
On being a straight speed-rusher:
"There's no doubt. That's his speciality. The more he plays this spring, he's a kid that needs to take most of the reps this spring to see what we're talking about, because he's so raw. He was so dominating in high school, he thought he could just come in here and do that."

On Shirley assimilating with the DL group, especially given the circumstances of his transfer from UCLA:
"It took a while. The best thing that ever happened to him was redshirting. The other kids that had so much more, in terms of learning the weight room, about his teammates, and all the other football stuff, Josh didn't get that opportunity - so he was way behind. But I think having a spring - and obviously this summer - is going to help Josh. We're counting on Josh, and we're really going to coach him and get him ready, because I think he's got something that we're missing - and that's obviously speed in our pass rush. That's what we're looking for, guys like Hud and Josh, and putting them in to what we're missing."


Alameda Ta'amu:
"What can you say. He's had an unbelievable winter. He's gotten stronger. You look at 'Meda's body now, compared to the past - he's cut. He's in shape. He's got a great attitude about things. He loves the weight room. There's nothing negative I can say about 'Meda right now. At the end of the season, his confidence has developed, and playing a lot of football has helped him. He's becoming more of a leader for our team, and at the end of the year that was good to see."

On Alameda being the leader of the DL:
"No question. Him and Everrette Thompson are by far our leaders."

On his off-season work:
"I want to say…today he was throwing up four plates four or five times this morning. We haven't maxed out, but his squat…he's a big kid. He's improved in that area. His conditioning was the biggest concern that I always had, and he's proven that he's taking care of his body and is eating right. I think a lot of people will be very pleased at the way 'Meda has developed."

On what he has to improve on during spring as he gets ready for his senior year:
"Our pass rush, and individual technique with his hands, and things like that…just being more consistent in his play. I think 'Meda would have been more productive if we had been able to give him more of a rest now and then. You have guys that play every snap all the way through the season…you look at the bowl game and he only took one or two snaps off, and he was so dominating in that game. That's the biggest thing…as he starts to tone his body and taking care of himself, he's going to be more productive than he was this year."


Everrette Thompson:
"Everrette is coming along. Everrette jumped right in there. He lost some leg strength because of his injury from a year ago, and then obviously the year before…we're just trying to keep Everrette healthy this year, get stronger in his lower body and more explosive coming out of his stance. Because when you see him on film, when he's coming off the ball, he's as good as anybody in the conference." :
On his status for spring:
"He is a full go."

On his physical development during the off-season:
"I want to say he's 10 pounds heavier than before. We'd like him to be more around 275, and I think in the summer he'll get close to that. I want him to be big, but don't lose your speed! He's our versatile guy, because he's so smart. You look at last year, we had to move him from the strong end to 3 technique because of our depth. He's one of our leaders."

On why the rest of the linemen gravitate to him as a leader:
"Everrette's a unique kid. He's one of those kids that cares. He reminds me so much of Daniel (Te'o-Nesheim). Daniel really rubbed off on Everrette. He's the one guy that I would say when Daniel left that has taken over that role in our meeting rooms and in his work ethic."


Semisi Tokolahi:
"He probably won't go this spring, but he's rehabbing really well. He's already got the screw out (ankle/foot), and the boot is going to come off soon. Again, Semisi's a naturally strong kid, and he needs to continue to get better in there. He'll be limited (in the fall), similar to what Everrette had to do a year ago when he practiced one day and take another off. It's frustrating, because he needs the practice and he's got all the talent in the world. He needs the practice to get better."

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