As part of their summer workout regime, UW’s offensive and defensive linemen had weekly training sessions with instructors from UFC’s Roosevelt gym — they had MMA training on Tuesdays and then a yoga class on Thursdays — that they believe will translate to improved line-of-scrimmage battles.

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Before the “combat” began, Washington defensive line coach Jeff Choate had a message. Sounding a bit like the evil sensei from “Karate Kid,” Choate stood in the middle of a group of linemen and in his hoarse voice yelled, “Take no prisoners!”

This wasn’t The Octagon, but the east end zone inside Husky Stadium served a similar purpose. UW’s defensive linemen lined up face-to-face, got down on their knees and put to work their eight weeks of mixed martial arts training against one another.

“Fight, fight!” Choate yelled. “Let’s go. Battle, battle!”

If it looked like an unusual drill on the football field, the technical aspects of hand combat Choate has been emphasizing in UW practices is a trend he says is permeating the game.

As part of their summer workout regime, UW’s offensive and defensive linemen had weekly training sessions with instructors from UFC’s Roosevelt gym — they had MMA training on Tuesdays and then a yoga class on Thursdays — that they believe will translate to improved line-of-scrimmage battles.

“It definitely helps as a defensive lineman, just being able to see the punches come at you and being able to hit certain targets,” UW defensive lineman Will Dissly said. “Last year, I was all over the place with my hands, but that really helped tighten my hands. Very helpful.”

The hand-on-hand combat, UW coaches say, is an underrated aspect of line play. Despite modest size and speed, former UW star Hau’oli Kikaha, who grew up practicing judo, blossomed into an All-American last year because he was better than anyone at the technical aspects of leveraging his hands, UW defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said.

Choate is trying to hand off that approach to his new crop of young linemen. In addition to the drill where he has the linemen on their knees, jabbing each others’ hands away, Choate also does a drill where the linemen punch a padded mitt while trying to get around an imaginary offensive lineman.

“The hand-fighting stuff has really caught on,” Choate said. “It’s all about gauging distance and understanding how to strike. With the MMA stuff, there’s also some throws and some leverage components. So there’s a lot of carryover to the defensive line play.”

The balance and core strength gained from the MMA training should benefit the Huskies, too.

UW sophomore nose tackle Elijah Qualls was a high school wrestler and he trained at a boxing gym during his senior year of high school. He said he’s noticed improvement in his conditioning and in his shoulder strength because of the linemen’s summer UFC training.

“That MMA stuff?” Qualls said. “It works.”

Notes

• Gone are the days of UW’s nose tackle playing nearly every down. Danny Shelton, even at 340 pounds, played about 80 percent of the Huskies’ defensive snaps last season, in part because he, like Kikaha, was a first-team All-American and, well, how do you pull that guy out of the game?

Qualls, Shelton’s 311-pound successor in the middle of the line, won’t be asked to carry such a load.

“We’re going to be a little bit more hockey-shift style,” Choate said. We’re going to try and get those guys to play at an elite level for three-to-seven snaps and roll guys in.”

Behind Qualls, the Huskies like their depth with redshirt freshman Vita Vea and Greg Gaines. Vea, at 340 pounds, is an interesting prospect; he didn’t academically qualify out of high school and then redshirted last season at UW.

“He physically flashes; he’s kind of a ‘wow’ guy,” Choate said of Vea. “With any young player it’s developing that consistency. But the one thing that’s really impressed me, this is a young man who had to sit out an academic redshirt year, was a partial qualifier out of high school (and) he was on the Dean’s list here a year ago. …

“He’s figured out how to study, both on and off the field, and that’s really elevated his play and makes him more valuable to us because he’s a guy that can play some tackle and some nose.”

Another young player who has flashed potential at times this month is freshman Benning Potoa’e, the 270-pound hybrid end/outside linebacker from Lakes High School. Physically, Potoa’e could pass as Kikaha’s twin — he inherited both Kikaha’s No. 8 uniform number and his old ‘Buck’ position. Potoa’e could see the field this season in a reserve role.

“We’re hoping that turns into being exactly the same thing we got out of ‘Hau,’ but that’s high expectations,” Choate said. “We know that’s a ways away. But very, very pleased with where he’s come from.”