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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

March 21, 2010 at 8:33 PM

Holt talks secondary

In part three of our talk with UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt previewing spring practice, the secondary. And at the end, Holt also offers some overall thoughts on the defense.
Entering spring, it is the secondary that looms as UW’s strongest position on defense with the return of three pretty set starters — Desmond Trufant and Adam Long at cornerback and Nate Williams at strong safety. Also back are Nate Fellner and Justin Glenn at free safety, who each had starts last year, and guys like Quinton Richardson and Vonzell McDowell Jr., at cornerback, who each have significant starting and playing experience, as well.
“I’m really proud of our two young corners,” Holt said. “I think they improved throughouog the year. I think our strong safety (Williams) really arrived at the end of the year and became a real good football player for us. So I think right now our back end, our secondary, is where we have our most depth.”
Of all the spots on the defense, Holt said cornerback may be the most deep.
“Adam and Desmond are young but good prospects,” he said. “I feel comfortable with them. “Quinton and Vonzell have had good winters — all those guys at that position have done a nice job this summer. (Anthony) Gobern has shown some promise this winter in the weight room, so there are five corners right there that run well and do some okay things. What they haven’t done is some of the other stuff that makes them good football players, haven’t shown it (on the field) other than the two starters. Those other three guys have to have good springs.”
Holt said converted WR Anthony Boyles remains in that mix, as well.
“We’ve got six corners on scholarship, one of which is a senior (McDowell), and Quinton will be a junior andn the other guys will all be underclassmen,” he said. “And we’ve got a good crew coming in in the fall, so we’ll have 6-7-8 cornerbacks on scholarship. That’s a lot of corners. Some of them have to prove they can do some good things here. The jury is still out on a lot of them except for the two. But we have some guys who can match up and cover, I think.”

Marquis Persley, a corner his first three years in the program, is being moved to safety, Holt said “to give us some numbers there.”
As for safety, Holt felt it was one of the team’s best positions at the end of last season when Williams teamed with the graduated Jason Wells at free safety. Williams can play either spot but the preferred route would be to let Williams stat at strong safety and have one of the other players emerge at free safety.
“The last couple of games we had Jason Wells and Nate Williams and felt really comfortable with those two guys,” Holt said. “Nate Fellner showed some really good promise and just needs to be a little more consistent in his assignments. But he’ll tackle you. He’s a good tackler and does some really good things. He needs to grow a little bit more, but he will.”
Also competing there will be Glenn, coming back from a broken leg suffered against Notre Dame, and Greg Walker, the starter out of fall camp in 2009.
Holt said that Glenn is “doing okay. I still don’t think he’s 100 percent,” but that “he’s going to go through spring ball and he’s coming back.”
Persley will also join that mix at safety as will redshirt freshman Will Shamburger, who sat out last season after having knee surgery before arriving at UW to fix a high school injury.
“He’s got a lot to learn,” Holt said of Shamburger. “He was a fantastic player out of high school, so hopefully he can rebound from his ACL and show us why we recruited him because he is a good football player. Hopefully he can show it in the spring.”
Holt said Shamburger is more of a strong safety type, having played there primarily in high school, but that he could get looks at either spot.
As mentioned previously, the plan is to move Victor Aiyewa to linebacker once he gets healthy in the fall, and Holt said one of the other safeties could also move there depending on how things evolve in the spring.
“One or two of them might have to move to linebacker,” he said. “We’ll wait and see who can do all of that.”
Hovering over the safety competition is the fall arrival of Sean Parker, maybe the most highly-touted member of the Class of 2010 who made a signing day announcement to come to UW. Holt said Parker could fit at either free or strong.
Holt said he expects that Parker will “come in and be in the two-deep and help us on special teams at least” but that any more than that is hard to predict now.
Parker won’t be alone, however, in being a true freshman asked to contribute immediately.
As mentioned in some of the other entries, the Huskies will need some help on the line and at linebacker and UW won’t have much choice but to turn to some of the incoming players.
“Some of these freshmen, a couple of the defensive ends, a couple of the linebackers, better come in and compete for starting jobs,” Holt said. “It’s unfortunate we have to put the pressure on them, but we need them to.”
That doesn’t mean Holt is completely bearish on the defense as it enters the spring. UW allowed just 10 points in its last two games, wins over Washington State and Cal, which indicated that signficant progress had been made.
Asked the difference, Holt said “just the execution of a lot of our base stuff. We just made less mistakes. I felt we usually played hard, week-in and week-out. For the most part we ran to the ball really well. I think we established a mental tougheness, a physicality. Obviously, all this stuff we can improve on. But I felt we made some strides the last month. It just started to pay off. We just kept doing the same things over and over and we just got better at our stuff.
“And maybe torwad the end of the year we were less banged up and had a consistent lineup. We had our safeties in and out of the lineup (all season) and some different lineups and we never really, week-in and week-out, had the same lineups just having guys hurt. So that was a little disappointing that we couldn’t really establish consistent. It would have been nice to have Jason Wells the whole year. But that’s the way it goes in football.”
Entering the spring, Holt hopes that a continuity begins to form with the players now having had a full year in the system, and the coaches a full year getting to know the players.
“Now I have a lot better idea of our personnel,” he said. “Obviously I know the kids a lot better and the kids know us and there has been established a bond and some trust with the staff and the kids. I think we can move forward. I think they know our package now and our schemes a lot better than we did a year ago. We’re still going to be very, very young on defense and we graduate probably our two best players in Donald (Butler) and Daniel (Te’o-Nesheim). But I think we have some young kids that have improved over the course of the season and I think they’ve had good winters. Most of our kids had really good winters. So we just keep plugging away.”



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