Sophomore, who played backup to All-American Shelton, aims to make his own persona for Huskies this season.
It happens often to Elijah Qualls. He might be walking around campus when someone will confuse him for his predecessor on the interior of Washington’s defensive line.
Even while out of the country last month for spring break, he was mistaken for Danny Shelton. “Hey Shelton — first-round pick!” someone yelled.
“I was like, dude, even in Mexico?” Qualls said with a laugh.
The confusion is justifiable, based on their 300-plus pound physique and long, frizzy hair. But Qualls, first in line to replace his All-American mentor at defensive tackle, has made it clear he’s not interested in being “the next” anyone.
Most Read Sports Stories
- He's 'completely different.' But will Puka Nacua be a difference-maker in his freshman season at UW?
- Bad with a purpose: Are the 'step-back' Mariners among the worst teams in franchise history? | Larry Stone
- Storm removes Breanna Stewart from roster, WNBA hires her as ambassador in unprecedented move
- What the contracts of Al Woods and Geno Smith say about their potential roles for the Seahawks in 2019
- Analysis: While UW basketball stocks up on top-tier talent, Oregon can't catch a break | Jon Wilner
“I’m trying to create my own persona,” the affable sophomore said Wednesday. “I’m trying to be Elijah Qualls and not Danny Shelton.”
Similarly, Qualls isn’t expected to replace Shelton’s outsized production all on his own on the Huskies’ rebuilt defensive line.
“None of us have to fill in any shoes individually,” Qualls said. “I don’t expect to. I mean, I don’t want to be the next Danny Shelton. I want to be better, but I’m not expecting to do that right now, at least not by myself.”
The 6-foot-1, 305-pound Qualls played in all 14 games for the Huskies last season, but as Shelton’s backup his appearances were limited. Shelton, even at 340 pounds, rarely left the field while emerging as a likely first-round pick in this month’s NFL draft.
“I’m happy I sat behind Danny Shelton last year. I learned a lot from him,” Qualls said. “It’s not just technique … but as far as how to mentally prepare and approach the game. I took in everything I possibly could from him.”
Qualls has worked mostly with the first-team defense this spring, and he said he’s been impressed with UW’s other big tackles, redshirt freshmen Greg Gaines (6-1, 306) and Vita Vea (6-5, 329).
“I honestly have a lot of faith in those guys; they’re working their butts off this spring,” Qualls said.
Four-star lineman commits to UW
Luke Wattenberg, a four-star offensive tackle from JSerra Catholic High in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., made an oral commitment to the Huskies on Wednesday.
Wattenberg is listed at 6-feet-5 270 pounds on his hudl.com page. He had scholarship offers from most of the Pac-12, including USC and UCLA, according to Scout.com, and had recently narrowed his decision to UW or Duke.
Wattenberg visited the UW campus last week. He is the third recruit from the Class of 2016 known to have made an oral commitment to the Huskies, joining Eastside Catholic’s Brandon Wellington and Bellingham safety Taylor Rapp.
• The Huskies’ Sept. 4 season opener at Boise State will kick off at 7:15 p.m. Pacific time (8:15 p.m. Mountain time), the Mountain West Conference announced on Wednesday. The game will air on ESPN.
• Junior QB Jeff Lindquist had his two biggest plays of the spring to highlight Wednesday’s full-pads practice inside Husky Stadium. Lindquist faked a handoff to Budda Baker and sprung up the middle and into the open field for a 70-yard touchdown run to start the final 11-on-11 team period. Three series later, Lindquist was back with the first-unit offensive line (and against the No. 2 defense) and hit Marvin Hall in stride down the right sideline on a 67-yard TD pass on fourth down.