Cornerback has been as scrutinized as any position on the Washington defense this season, with the Huskies allowing 327.5 passing yards per game, last in the Pac-12 and 117th out of 120 teams in the nation.
Of course, pass defense — like any aspect of football — is a team thing, and the blame for those numbers doesn’t fall solely on the secondary or the cornerbacks (pass rush, anyone?) And that some of the high yardage total is due to playing a few teams that lead with the pass is evident in the pass efficiency stats, in which the Huskies fare a little better, at No. 69 overall (due in part to opponents completing 57 percent of passes — only two Pac-12 teams have had a lower-percentage of passes completed against them.)
Still, when a lot of passing yards are allowed, the focus inevitably falls on the secondary, and specifically the cornerbacks.
Cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin, though, says that the most important stat at the moment is the team’s 3-1 record.
“I see a lot of good things, I see a lot of bad things, too,” he said. “Obviously our goals are to have lower numbers, but our major goal is to win football games and that’s what we are doing right now and we are happy with that. I will give up 500 (yards) every game if we win, it don’t matter to me.”
Martin says the specific areas of improvement are some of the basics of playing the position. “Just have to get your eyes right; zone eyes are man eyes, and you have to be looking at the right stuff,” he said.
The Huskies are essentially operating with four cornerbacks — Desmond Trufant, locked in as a starter on one side; Greg Ducre and Quinton Richardson, battling for the other side; and Anthony Gobern, beginning to see a bit more time.
Martin says he doesn’t see that opponents are necessarily targeting any of the corners.
“I can’t say that, not really,” he said. “It all equals out. The guys are not just not throwing the ball to our left side anymore (where Trufant often is), the ball is getting distributed equally in the film that we broke down.”
Richardson has been a prime target of criticism throughout the season. But Martin says while some of it is valid, he also says Richardson is not yet completely recovered from the high ankle sprain suffered midway through famp.
“He’s not 100 perecnt full-speed straight ahead, so some of those things are hurting him,” Martin said. “But a lot of the mistakes he’s making there is no excuse for. But I would take an 80 percent Quinton Richardson over a lot of cornerbacks.”
Ducre, who suffered a concussion last week but will be able to play this week at Utah, is sharing time with Richardson (and all three out there in some nickel situations).
“The competition is always open, so he (Ducre) is going to be playing a lot more, like he was early in the season,” Martin said. “I think he deserves to keep playing and give Q enough time to finish up with that high ankle sprain, which usually lingers a lot, especially at that position, and it will help him come on and be stronger at the end of the season also for us. Those guys will probably play equally amount of reps here coming up against Utah.”
As for Gobern, Martin says he also is deserving of getting on the field more.
“A lot of growth, a lot of maturity,” he said of the improvement of Gobern, a junior. “(There are) a lot of things we worked on in spring and fall camp that he has gotten a lot better at in terms of technique, terminology and just being confident out there and not freaking out when the ball is coming his way. He made some real calm, deliberate plays on the fade route, and I’m very happy to see that.”