Three first-year defensive linemen have grown from their struggles this season
They're the heart of the Huskies' future, this trio of teenagers with broad shoulders and big dreams. They reside in McCarty Hall on the University of Washington campus, hanging out most nights playing video games, sharing laughs and life.
They're each 18 years old. All of Samoan descent. Grew up in the Seattle area. Kindred spirits who try to wreak havoc on the football field every Saturday and then attend church with family on Sunday.
Amid all the misery of an 0-10 season, they are a reason for hope. You won't find another NCAA Division I program with three true freshmen playing considerable roles on the defensive line. And for good reason.
Nobody is ready to play in the trenches for a major-college team at that age. The fact the Huskies defense ranks among the poorest in the country can be traced in large part to the inexcusable fact that three of their defensive linemen are literally boys among men.
Thompson, a 6-foot-6, 255-pound end out of Kennedy High School, made his first start Saturday against UCLA and finished with a sack and three tackles for a loss.
Ta'amu, a 6-2, 348-pound defensive tackle from Rainier Beach, made his third start of the year against the Bruins and played his best game yet, according to defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, effectively shutting down the point of attack.
Kelemete, a 6-4, 260-pound tackle from Evergreen High School, started four games early in the season before suffering a knee injury, but will be back in action for Saturday's Apple Cup after missing the past month.