Aug. 5, 1999
PULLMAN, Wash. - Washington State defensive line coach Mike Walker may well think he is in heaven this fall as Washington State prepares for the season opener Sept. 4 at home against Utah. A year ago this fall Walker had to make due with six defensive linemen to play four positions. Included in the six were two true freshmen.
This season Walker starts off with a front wall of 12 tackles and ends, allowing the former Cougar player and new line coach Robb Akey to develop a stable of tackles and another of ends. The size of WSU's line has increased dramatically, along with the numbers.
WSU's top five defensive ends this year average 265 pounds, while the top five tackles average 285. Contrast that to a year ago when the entire line of six players averaged 256 pounds and the heaviest was Rob Meier at 267. Meier this year is up to 282 pounds and is joined by Joey Hollenbeck at 293 and Tomasi Konkaika at 282.
The improvement in numbers and size is the result of five red-shirt freshmen joining the ranks, plus the addition of two junior college transfers. Players like ends Austin Matson, Mark Hedeen and Jesse Ratcliff, who are all in the 260-pound range, are expected to benefit from an occasional breather out of the lineup and also from not having to go against 300 pound offensive linemen on every play.
"We will rotate all those guys and keep everyone fresh this fall," offers Cougar head coach Mike Price. "Last year we got worn down because we didn't have the depth."
NOTES: Six former Cougar defensive linemen are currently toiling in the NFL, Dorian Boose (NY Jets), Shane Doyle (Denver), Chad Eaton (New England), Gary Holmes (Seattle), Jonathan Nance (Seattle) and Don Sasa (Detroit).
PRICE ON DEFENSIVE LINE: "For every different reason you could imagine, we were decimated on the defensive line last year. This year we have six young players who can play on the defensive line, Brian Hollenburg, Eric Boose, Tomasi Kongaika and Ing Aleaga, all redshirt freshmen, plus Mark Hedeen and Joey Hollenbeck, who played last year as true freshmen. Now we mix them in with three returning starters, Jesse Ratcliff, Austin Matson and Rob Meier. We also have added two junior college transfers, including Melvin Camarena, who joined us in the spring. Now Anthony Adedipe factors in this fall. The line is young and somewhat inexperienced, except for the three starters, but we will be good this year and better in the future. We will rotate all those guys and keep everyone fresh this fall. Last year we got worn down because we didn't have the depth."
THE FACTS - D-LINE
LETTERWINNERS RETURNING (5): Mark Hedeen, 1V, So., Joey Hollenbeck, 1V, So., Austin Matson, 2V, RS-Jr., Rob Meier, 3V, RS-Sr., Jesse Ratcliff, 1V, RS-Sr.
NON-LETTERWINNERS RETURNING (5): Ing Aleaga, RS-Fr., Eric Boose, RS-Fr., Gerald Cook, RS-Fr., Brian Hollenberg, RS-Fr., Tomasi Kongaika, RS-Fr.
TRANSFERS (2): Anthony Adedipe, TR-Jr., Melvin Camarena, TR-Jr.
IMPACT NEWCOMERS (5): DE Melvin Camarena, TR-Jr., DE Anthony Adedipe, TR-Jr., DT Tomasi Kongaika, RS-Fr., DT Ing Aleaga, RS-Fr., DT Eric Boose, RS-Fr.
STARTERS RETURNING (3): DT Austin Matson, Jr., DT Rob Meier, Sr., DE Jesse Ratcliff, Sr.
BACKUPS RETURNING (1): DE Mark Hedeen, So.
STARTERS LOST (1): DE Jonathan Nance.
EXPECTED STARTERS: WE Austin Matson, Jr., DT Rob Meier, Sr., DT Tomasi Kongaika, RS-Fr., or Joey Hollenbeck, So., SE Mark Hedeen, So., or Jesse Ratcliff, Sr.