Huskies junior defensive lineman Elijah Qualls spoke on Tuesday about playing alongside Greg Gaines and Vita Vea, facing Arizona again and preparing for the start of Pac-12 play. Here is what he said.
(How has it worked out so far with you, Greg and Vita playing together?) “I knew from a chemistry standpoint it would be good, just for the simple fact that at some point, we were all nose (tackles). So we know kind of the mentality of each other and what we’re all trying to do, so being in the same unit – d-line, receiver, stuff like that – you develop chemistry. But specifically, especially on the d-line, being at the same position, you develop more of that relationship with the same person because you’re all trying to understand the job, understand the defense, understand all that. So I know what Vita and Greg are thinking on the field, and how they’re going to react to different situations. And so it’s just like, I’m not surprised that it’s working out as well as it has, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it got better. So I like it so far.”
(Where do you usually line up now?) “It kind of just depends. I’m playing wherever right now. I’ll play nose sometimes depending on personnel, fronts, depending on their personnel, depending on what they like to do, close call, who’s on the field. I’ll line up at nose, tackle and outside rush, kind of wherever I am for that play.
(On Greg Gaines’ improvement from last season) “Greg has gotten better at doing his job. His downfall last year for him not making as many plays as he could have, and as he did (Saturday), is he kind of went rogue sometimes and just went back to the high school mentality. Sometimes it made him a play, sometimes it hurt the defense. He’s gotten a lot better at being consistent with his technique, playing and understanding the offense and their tendencies and everything like that. He’s gotten better at all the other aspects. Dude’s a dominant, defensive run-stopper. I was laughing at him the other game, because a lot of people ran his way the majority of the time, and I was clowning with him, because I don’t know why, because you’re the better run stopper, honestly. So it’s just like, dude’s gotten better. Him, Vita, everybody. Everybody’s been working on their weaknesses this offseason and understanding what we needed to work on as a group, as a person, as a player, everything.
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(On UW’s defense having success against Arizona’s system the last two years) “Last time I really played against Arizona was two years ago. I got hurt last Arizona game. So I’m excited to get back on the field and actually play against these guys. They’re a run-first team and they pride themselves on that. Their o-line tries to be as physical as possible while being as technique as possible. And I just kind of try to make up for last (year’s) game that I didn’t get to play with my teammates on that field. I was excited for that game, especially because that coaching staff, when I was being recruited, was one of my favorites. Those are all good dudes. Rich Rod is a great guy. So just being able to play against them and that offense. The quarterback, I played against him in a high school bowl game. A lot of those dudes I know. I’m excited to play against those dudes. I know they’re going to fight, scrap. It’s conference play. I’m ready for it. We’re all ready for it.”
(On Pac-12 play having a different feel) “It’s different in a sense of … we don’t play Rutgers every year. We don’t play Portland State every year. We don’t play all those preseason guys every single year. But you play Arizona, Stanford, one of those guys for the most part every single year. So the fact that you played those guys the year before, maybe even two years ago, so you might go against the same guy every year. He knows what you like to do. He’s studied your film because he knows that game might mean a little bit more to him, everything like that, considering that it’s Pac conference. So it’s a little more challenging in the sense of, we know these guys have been watching us since last year. After offseason and everything and that, they know this is the first game of the (Pac-12) season. They’ve been watching that last game and trying to fix everything that went wrong for them in that last game. So we know it’s not going to be the same game. We know that they’re going to fix what the problem was. They’re going to come out fighting even harder and try to make plays on us.”