COLUMBUS, Ohio — As a high schooler at Cincinnati Taft, Adolphus Washington was a 250-pound speed-rushing defensive end who would shoot off the edge and track the football from all angles. He was able to chase down ball carriers or put pressure on quarterbacks with equal prejudice.
Adolphus Washington Finally at Home on the Inside
By Tony Gerdeman
When he arrived at Ohio State, however, he was still an edge rusher, but he came in considerably bigger. Weighing in as a 289-pound freshman, Washington finished the 2012 season with three sacks and plenty of promise
In 2013, he again set up shop at defensive end, but battled injuries throughout the season, eventually giving way to freshman phenom Joey Bosa. Even though he only missed two games, he was hampered for most of the season.
When he was finally back to full strength he moved between both defensive end and defensive tackle, starting at each over the course of the last four games.
Photo by Jim Davidson
This season, however, Washington is a defensive tackle, and he's there to stay.
"Inside for good," Washington said of his new home.
"At first I was nervous and scared about it, but now that I've got the whole of it, it's just whatever. I'm just gonna go out there and play."
New positions are always going to bring some nerves with them, but entering his junior season, Washington is now a veteran. What could he possibly be nervous about?
"Honestly? The double teams," he chuckled.
"Michael Bennett used to tell me about them. He used to be like, 'You just gotta get your pads low and fire off the ball.' So I'm like, 'I can do that. If that's all it takes, I can do that.' I've been doing really good with it this spring, especially going against guys like Pat Elflein and Antonio Underwood. If I can do it against them I know I can do it pretty much against anybody."
Moving from a spot at defensive end where a pass rusher can sometimes go completely unblocked, to defensive tackle where there is more congestion than your average underground rave is a huge adjustment.
Life becomes much different for a defensive lineman when they move inside, and Washington has seen it first hand when he experienced it himself a year ago. He has put what he learned to good use, however, and continues to make strides.
"I think he's really coming into his own in spring," said nose tackle Michael Bennett, who also was once a defensive end.
"He's blowing through double teams and really starting to control the line of scrimmage. He'd be the first to tell you that he struggled at it at first, but he's doing really well with it right now."
It takes a different mentality to live on the inside, and it involves expecting wave after wave of blockers while never accepting that you are being blocked.
"You just kind of have to have a little grittier mindset when you move inside," Bennett explained. "You just have to know that you're going to get double teams and know that guys are trying to get you so you've got to get to them before they get to you.
"With end you can kind of sit back. You beat one guy and then read the play and go get the ball. With three technique or nose guard, you've got to beat two guys and then hope that nobody is coming across the line of scrimmage to hit you and then try to get the ball. It's just a little different."
Making things easier for Washington, however, is the fact that he is completely healthy. After suffering through a disappointing sophomore year capsized by injuries, Washington is ready to become the dynamic player many expected him to become a year ago -- he'll just be doing it at a different position.
Washington has always been a very good pass rusher, but now as an inside presence, he has to become a run stopper as well. Getting an entire offseason, spring and summer at defensive tackle will be invaluable to him in that regard. With the work that he has put in, the results should follow.
"He's really worked hard," said defensive line coach Larry Johnson.
"He's had a really good spring, he really has. We moved him to the inside because of the pass rush ability. He's playing the run really nice and he's done a great job for us."
The life of a defensive tackle may not appeal to most, but for Adolphus Washington, he now considers it home sweet home.
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