Freshman Senio Kelemete truly had to see it to believe it when he heard his name was atop the Washington depth chart at one defensive-tackle spot for Saturday's game at Oregon.
Freshman Senio Kelemete truly had to see it to believe it when he heard his name was atop the Washington depth chart at one defensive-tackle spot for Saturday’s game at Oregon.
“I was shocked,” he said Wednesday. “I didn’t look at it at first. I had my aunts and uncles call me. They said, ‘Congratulations.’ I said, ‘On what?’ They said, ‘Didn’t you look at the depth chart yet?’ I said, ‘No.’ They said, ‘You are starting.’
“I had to go check for myself.”
And there it was in black and white, Kelemete listed as a starter less than two weeks after he officially began his Huskies career.
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Kelemete, from Evergreen High School in White Center, was denied entry to UW’s camp until Aug. 13 in a mix-up over his eligibility. The NCAA initially ruled a summer-school class he took last year to fulfill a core-course requirement was not valid. Kelemete spent a few weeks trying to make it up online before being told that the class was valid, after all.
“It got me kind of discouraged,” he said. “It was like, ‘Am I really going to be able to make it this year or am I going to have to wait until January?’ But I had a lot of family members, friends and teammates tell me I was going to be OK, keep your head up, and all the sudden it worked out really fine.”
Once Kelemete returned, he had to fulfill a five-day acclimatization period, so he’s had about a week of full practice with the Huskies.
But with a 6-foot-4 ½, 295-pound frame (an official UW listing of 260 pounds is from his high-school days) and what coaches say are unusually quick feet, he made an immediate impression.
“He brings an unusual quality of power and strength to our defense,” said UW defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. “He’s bright. He understands. I don’t see anything that could keep him back from being a good player.”
Though a starter, Kelemete is likely to share time with a host of other linemen Saturday as Donatell plans to rotate more liberally than he has in the past.
Kelemete is one of three true freshmen listed on the depth chart on the defensive line — Rainier Beach’s Alameda Ta’amu at tackle and Kennedy’s Everrette Thompson at end are the others — giving the Huskies a young look to go up against Oregon’s veteran offensive line.
But Kelemete says he’s up for the challenge.
“The coaches already stressed to us that even though we are freshmen, we don’t plan on playing like freshmen,” he said.
• UW coach Tyrone Willingham said tight end Michael Gottlieb was “more questionable” than he had been earlier in the week to make the trip. Gottlieb has a hamstring injury.
• Reserve offensive lineman Mark Armelin has a foot injury that may keep him sidelined for a week or two, Willingham said. Nick Scott, a transfer from Drake, has moved into his place as the backup left tackle.
• Donatell, when asked if the Huskies plan to spring some surprises defensively on Oregon, joked, “We’re going to play them the one vanilla look the whole game.”