Had a chance to speak today with Huskies defensive line coach Ikaika Malloe, who praised Elijah Qualls’ versatility and discussed UW’s successful pass rush thus far.
(How soon after you took this job did you realize what you had on the defensive line?) “Really, the first day. I could see the talent. Coaches use the word all the time, potential. But I also knew that we won’t reach or be anywhere near that potential unless we got better at fundamentals, and the thing that’s really awesome about this place is Coach Pete is only about fundamentals and trying to get better and creating good habits and whatnot. And I think the defensive line is doing a good job as a unit, just getting better, technically, every week.”
(What were some of those fundamentals you wanted to improve?) “Hands. Hands was a big thing for me, and how they use them, in terms of where they place it. Those were the things that Coach K and I were trying to be more detailed about. And then understanding their strength. They’re so powerful. Three guys over 300 pounds and can lift the weight room, but trying to transfer that part to the field, those guys understanding leverages and body parts and knowing how to use their body parts, those were things we were hoping to instill in them, and I think they’ve picked it up pretty good.”
(On Elijah Qualls playing all over the defensive line) “He’s been awesome for us. Being able to move him from end to tackle to nose and back out, he’s allowed us to be a little bit more versatile, allow us to put out more defensive linemen if need be, and play the defensive end/linebacker part. But to me, he’s taken it the right away, the right approach. He’s not getting more into it, in terms of what we expect out of him, because we don’t – we expect him to do just his job. And I think he’s doing a good job because of that.”
(How hard is that to do?) “Very hard. So when I played here, I think I played four positions, and I realized that I was very average at all four, as opposed to being able to play one position and hopefully be good and working my way to trying to be great. And that’s the problem that Elijah has, because he has to split time in terms of learning, split time in terms of technique. Him playing outside linebacker is completely different than defensive tackle, but he’s gifted that way, to be able to do – he has actually the mental capacity to grasp both. But doing it on the chalkboard, doing it in the meeting room is completely different than doing it on the field, and so far we’ve been successful with him doing it.”
(When did you first start to think you could move him around like that?) “It’s really in camp, when he was so hungry for knowledge, and he’s asking questions about ‘what does this guy do, what does that guy do,’ and at first it was a little irritating because I want him to learn what he does and do that first, but the more you kept talking to him, you understood that he really understood football, and he wanted as much knowledge as possible. And Coach K with his philosophy and his mad scientist mind, he was able to use that and make it beneficial for our package.”
(On Joe Mathis’ breakout game against Stanford) “He did great, him and Psalm. They played really, really well. And again, it was just them building skill over and over and finally it paying off. And I give them a lot of credit for being so disciplined and doing just what we ask of them, and not trying to do so much. The inside tackles, with the help of the rest of the defense, the inside tackles are getting a lot of stats, and that can be frustrating to certain people. But when you play with such an unselfish mindset, everything came out for those two and that was awesome. The inside guys were celebrating them so much because we knew that they earned that. We knew that they deserved that and it finally came.”
(On the priority for UW’s defensive line against Oregon) “Really trying to stop the running back as much as we can, and trying to keep that quarterback contained. They have so many weapons on that side with the receivers, the offensive line I think is a great offensive line led by Cameron Hunt. Because for us, we don’t see grades. It’s four redshirt freshmen playing, but they do a great job. Coach Greatwood does a great job coaching them up and you can see the skill that they have so far. On our end, if we can just continue to be great in technique and have really disciplined eyes, that will give us a chance.”