We’ll continue the post-spring reviews with a look at the secondary, a spot that could be improved in 2011 with good experience at three of four positions — as long as the depth holds out.
First, a look at the official depth chart.
Nate Fellner, 6-1, 201, Jr.
Justin Glenn, 5-11, 203, Jr.
Greg Walker, 5-10, 194, Jr.
Sean Parker, 5-10, 200, So./OR
Will Shamburger, 6-0, 190, So./OR
Taz Stevenson, 6-0, 198, So.
Quinton Richardson, 6-0, 200, Sr.
Gregory Ducre, 5-10, 170, So.
Adam Long, 5-10, 168, Jr.
Desmond Trufant, 6-0, 177, Jr.
Anthony Gobern, 5-11, 189, Jr.
Marquis Persley, 6-0, 188, Sr.
NEWCOMERS ARRIVING IN THE FALL
Evan Zeger, 6-2, 200
James Sample, 6-2, 191
Antavius Sims, 6-2, 200
Marcus Peters, 6-foot, 179
Three of the four spots are set — Fellner (pictured above making an interception in the Holiday Bowl in a Dean Rutz photo), and both corners.
Strong safety is officially open, but it’s not a coincidence that Parker is listed first — once fully recovered from a nerve/stinger injury that caused him to miss the last four games of last season and be limited to non-contact in the spring, he’s the favorite to win the job.
On paper, that figures as one of the better UW secondaries in a while.
Fellner has been a starter for a year-and-a-half and came on late last season to finish fourth in the Pac-10 in interceptions with five — and with stickier fingers might have had three or four more. He’s also developed a reputation as one of the bigger hitters in the secondary and with his experience, emerging as a defensive leader. And he has experienced backups in Glenn and Walker, who each have previous starting experience. Glenn could find himself on the field significantly this season as a nickelback, a job he began to make his own this spring after finally shaking off the leg injury suffered against Notre Dame in 2009.
Trufant and Richardson started every game last season, and while they each had their struggles at times last season, they also got a lot of the credit for the defensive turnaround the last four games, and coaches continually lauded their play throughout the spring.
The caveat to the late-season improvement is that much of it came against questionable QBs and passing attacks (the way WSU threw the ball in the Apple Cup, especially the second half, might give some ammo to the skpetics). Regardless, each cornerback has had proven success, and with each now entering a third year as a starter, continuing on the late-season course will be expected. UW coaches showed their increasing confidence in their play throughout the spring by calling more aggressive defenses requiring man coverage.
Depth, though, is an issue at cornerback with Long’s status in question after an off-season ACL injury and Ducre on non-contact status in the spring following shoulder surgery. Ducre should be fine for the fall, and coaches raved about his play in non-contact settings. UW, however, will need some of the other reserves to step up to feel comfortable about the depth — and will also give ample chances to Sims and Peters to earn playing time. Sims, the lone JC transfer in the class of 2011, is obviously intriguing, but will have to make adjust to playing corner full time after playing quarterback at Ventura (and it’s possible he could get a little time at QB with the Huskies in camp, though the more immediate need at corner indicates he’ll be used predominantly on defense).
Parker, Shamburger and Stevenson are all young players who have already shown promise in their brief UW careers, and the long-term future at that spot seems bright. However, the trio will be entrusted with replacing three-year starter Nate Williams, a heady player who also provided a lot of leadership to the back end. Even in his non-contact status, Parker showed flashes of becoming that same sort of leader in the spring, and saw the most time on the field in defensive situations last season before his injury.
Sample and Zeger are each touted recruits who could figure into the mix (as well as on special teams), though if all of the returners come back — and stay — healthy, the Huskies appear to have good depth at safety.