Isaiah Washington and fellow defensive end Arden Key are two freshmen who have earned repeated praise from LSU coaches after the first two-plus weeks of preseason camp. Washington discusses what it’s been like to get first-team reps and making the transition from high school.
It seems like you and Arden have fit in easily with your new teammates. How has it been from your perspective?
All of them have taken care of us from day one — Tashawn Bower, Davon Godchaux, Dre (Deondre Clark). Even those guys on the O-line like Hawk (Jerald Hawkins) and Vadal (Alexander), they tell us what they don’t like to block to help make us better. We have to go against them every day. Your best critic is the person you go against (in practice) every day.
Who do you go against?
(Right tackles) Vadal and Adrian Magee.
How competitive has it been for you and Arden Key, a couple of young guys trying to make an impression?
When you step on the field with a guy like Arden, you know you have to come to play. If you don’t get the sack or the tackle, he’s going to get it. But it’s not really a competition, it’s more like you’re working each other ... it’s teamwork.
What was it like getting reps with the first-team defense early in camp?
I love getting the work. If I’m sitting on the sideline, I’m not getting my tools better. As a freshman, you need to get as much time as you can on the practice field with the ones because that will help you get better as you grow as a player.
You’re getting some snaps with the first team at left end. Did you expect that as a true freshman?
I really didn’t expect that coming in. But you know, here at LSU, young guys are supposed to play big roles when your name gets called.
Did you know you were going to be with the veterans instead of the newcomers during the split practices early in camp?
No, I didn’t. They told me the night before the first practice and I was like, ‘OK, you’re with the (veterans). ... You have to get your mind right and kick it to another level.’ It’s not high school anymore ... it’s grown men out there.
How has the transition been for you and how quickly have you picked things up?
I feel like I pick stuff up a lot quicker because I feel like I can push myself to the next level. I push myself a little bit harder and then go a little bit more. But I never feel like I can be an All-American or get to the NFL because I’m so hard on myself. I critique myself on every play. ... If you take a play off, there’s a chance it’s a play that you could have been great at.
What do you have to work on more?
Staying in the weight room and in my books. I have to learn how to play bigger (offensive) tackles, and I have to be able to slow the game down.
What are your strengths?
I really don’t know what they are. People tell me a lot of stuff, but day in and day out, I just come ready to work.