SEATTLE — It could be worse. A lot worse.
Daniel T’eo-Nesheim knows this better than most.
So when the University of Washington’s senior defensive end looks at a 3-6 record and his paltry total of 24 tackles this season, T’eo-Nesheim feels disappointed but not depressed.
“It’s tough to lose like this,” he said Tuesday. “But you still need to come out with a great attitude every week and keep working hard. Moaning about it is not going to do anything.”
Like all of the returning players on the UW football team, T’eo-Nesheim has risen from deeper depths than these. Even the five losses in six games haven’t been enough to break the senior captain’s spirit — not after being on teams that went 5-7, and then 4-9, and then 0-12.
He’s not even dwelling on his own numbers. After being credited with 122 tackles during the past two seasons, T’eo-Nesheim is in danger of having the lowest total of his four-year career. He also said Tuesday that his six sacks this year are “not even close” to the total he targeted for his senior season.
“But there’s nothing you can do but get back to work,” said T’eo-Nesheim, who has four more sacks than anyone else on the UW team.
One thing upon which everyone can agree is that T’eo-Nesheim is not the reason the Huskies have sunken to another likely sub-.500 season.
Asked Tuesday about T’eo-Nesheim’s senior year, defensive coordinator Nick Holt said: “Well, it’s not over yet, now. He’s been fantastic. He’s a great competitor, and he plays hard. You can always count on him.”
While T’eo-Nesheim doesn’t like to publicize his personal goals, it’s likely that one of them is still attainable. The 6-foot-4 defensive end currently ranks fourth in school history with 25 career sacks, and three more would tie him with Ron Holmes for the most ever by a UW player.
But when asked for his best-case scenario in terms of how his senior year would play out, T’eo-Nesheim said nothing about his personal statistics.
“We could win all three games,” he said with a big, hopeful grin.
No matter how T’eo-Nesheim finishes, his coaches and teammates have certainly been won over by his career as a Husky.
“He’s somebody who basically puts his life on the line every game,” fellow senior Darrion Jones said Tuesday. “He goes out there and gives his all for the team with no complaints and no arguing.”
On a team that hasn’t made too much noise in the Pac-10 over the past few years, T’eo-Nesheim has made opponents take notice.
“I’m pretty sure, just if they look at what he’s done over the last four years, everybody knows who he is,” Jones said. “He’s been starting since he was a redshirt freshman. Teams know where he is at all times. They know what he’s done the last four years, so I’m sure they notice him.”
One former opponent, current UW coach Steve Sarkisian, had respect for T’eo-Nesheim even before they were part of the same program. But even Sarkisian has been somewhat surprised by just how important a piece T’eo-Nesheim has been to the Huskies’ defense.
“Sometimes everybody involved expects so much of him that when Daniel doesn’t come out of a game with three sacks, (you ask yourself) what happened?” Sarkisian said. “But the guy plays with unbelievable effort. I wish we had 11 guys every snap play as hard as he does.”
While he might not have had the season he had hoped, T’eo-Nesheim will certainly leave a void when he’s gone. This time next year, the Huskies just hope to have one guy like him.
“Somebody’s going to step up, just like Daniel did when all the other guys graduated,” Holt said. “Someone always steps up, gets a little better, gets more mature. There’s always someone to take people’s place. That’s what’s cool about college football.”
For T’eo-Nesheim, all that matters is the present. And his senior year hasn’t gone quite like he’d expected.
“More wins would be nice,” he said. “But we just have to execute. If we did our jobs, on defense and on offense, we would be undefeated. So we just have to work hard this week to try to do our jobs.”
Starting defensive tackle Cameron Elisara (neck stinger) was among several players to sit out Tuesday’s practice, and Holt told a few reporters that the junior is at least a week away from returning to the field. … Also sidelined Tuesday were linebacker E.J. Savannah (broken thumb) and safety Jason Wells (plantar fasciitis). Both players would start Saturday’s game at Oregon State if healthy. If not, Cort Dennison would start at linebacker, and Nate Fellner would start at safety. … Running back Chris Polk (ribs) practiced again Tuesday and appears likely to be available for Saturday’s game. … Ben Ossai and Drew Schaefer continue to split time at left tackle. Sarkisian has not announced which one will start Saturday. Ossai started the first eight games of the season, but Schaefer got the start last week because Ossai had violated a team rule.