Sept. 22, 2003
Washington State's defensive front four developed a motto during the offseason that they hope will carry them to another dominating performance in 2003; All business, all the time.
Defensive tackles Faafetai Tupai and Jeremey Williams, and ends D.D. Acholonu and Isaac Brown, all seniors, eventually turned that mindset into something that every great unit truly needs, a nickname. The foursome, which helped WSU hold opponents to just over 87 yards on the ground in 2002 and lead the Pac-10 in sacks with 55, wants to be known as 'The Firm' in what will be the final season in Crimson and Gray for each of them.
Not just anybody gets a nickname. It has to be earned, and this group has the credentials.
Tupai, a 6-5, 320-pound California native, has 21 career starts and is the group's top run stopper. Williams is the renaissance man of the unit, a three-time first team Pac-10 All-Academic selection and conference honorable mention pick in 2002. He also played with a broken leg through most of his freshman season. Acholonu and Brown are dedicated to disruption coming off the corners and entered their senior seasons with a combined 35.5 career sacks.
Collectively, 'The Firm' has played in 142 games, starting 47, recorded 288 tackles, including 79.5 behind the line, and sacked opposing quarterbacks 47.5 times. Williams expects to add to those numbers in 2003.
'We are going out to dominate,' said Williams, who has been dubbed 'Hiz Honor' by his fellow defensive linemen. 'We want to lead the nation in everything. We want to be those bad boys that people are scared to come to Martin Stadium and face. We think that we have worked and grown up enough now that this being our last year, we think we can accomplish that.'
Despite the experience and talent that Williams and the gang possess, they were largely overlooked by the media in preseason publications due to the unexpected loss of the 2002 Outland Trophy winner, Rien Long, who jumped to the NFL a year early.
'Rien was a great player and he did a lot of good things last year,' Williams said. 'We don't feel that one individual has to pick up for him. We are going to do things just like we would if he was here.'
Early returns on the 2002 campaign point to another solid season for The Firm. Against Idaho Aug. 30, WSU yielded a mere 83 rushing yards at just 3.19 yards per attempt. Brown, who is known as 'Da' Prosecutor', says it is comforting to see familiar faces around him each time he lines up.
'We all came in the same class and have gotten to know each other,' Brown said. 'On the defensive line there are so many calls and it's important that we are in the right place. We can just look at each other and know what we are thinking.'
With all the talk of high expectations in 2003, the senior-laden group is guarding against a letdown and trying to make sure its own expectations are met.
'We stay on each other and make sure that we all stay grounded,' Brown said. 'Our goal has always been to make sure that the sum of our production is bigger than the individual parts.'
The Firm, which is getting some help this season from reserve defensive ends Adam Braidwood and Mkristo Bruce, as well as tackles Steve Cook and Josh Shavies, should have enough parts to make its last season on the Palouse a very productive one.