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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

March 1, 2012 at 5:27 PM

Position overview — Defensive backs

trufantap.jpg

We’ll continue our reviews of UW’s position groups heading into spring ball with a look at the secondary.

Like the rest of the defense, there is a new position coach on board with Keith Heyward entrusted with coaching the defensive backs — last year, Jeff Mills coached the safeties and Demetrice Martin the cornerbacks.

With Johnny Nansen now having a title as special teams coach and recruiting coordinator (he was also defensive line coach the last three seasons), there is technically one less coach on the defensive side of the ball, so Heyward is handling the entire secondary. New defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, however, played safety and cornerback at Oregon so he has a lot of experience in that area. And also back is graduate assistant Donte Williams, who took over as interim cornerbacks coach in December after Martin left for UCLA.

Like the rest of the defensive position groupings, the new coaches and new schemes make it a little hard to get an exact read on where every player will line up in 2012 — like the other spots, there is sure to be some experimentation with personnel in the secondary in the spring and into fall camp.

But there are two full-time starters returning who would seem likely to hold those spots again next year in cornerback Desmond Trufant (pictured above last year against USC in an AP photo) and strong safety Sean Parker.

Before going further, however, a look at the players at each position in the secondary:

CORNERBACK
Desmond Trufant, 6-0, 184, Sr.
Greg Ducre, 5-10, 173, Jr.
Anthony Gobern, 5-11, 187, Sr.
Adam Long, 5-10, 173, Sr.
Antavius Sims, 6-2, 205, Jr.
Marcus Peters, 5-11, 187, RFr.
Darien Washington, 5-10, 165, Fr.
Brandon Beaver, 6-0, 176, Fr.
Cleveland Wallace, 5-11, 165, Fr.
(Also on the roster at the end of the 2011 season was walk-on Tre Watson, 5-10, 181, Sr.).

SAFETY
Nate Fellner, 6-1, 201, Sr.
Justin Glenn, 5-11, 206, Sr.
Sean Parker, 5-10, 202, Jr.
Will Shamburger, 6-0, 192, Jr.
Taz Stevenson, 6-1, 203, Jr.
Travis Feeney, 6-4, 203, RFr.
James Sample, 6-2, 191, RFr.
Evan Zeger, 6-2, 210, RFr.
Shaq Thompson, 6-2, 215, Fr.
(Also on the roster at the end of the 2011 season were walk-ons Zach Beebe, 6-1, 211, So.; Ken Egu, 5-10, 185, So.; and K.C. Herren, 6-0, 207, So.)

POSITION OVERVIEW

UW loses just one significant player in the back end — cornerback Quinton Richardson, who started eight games last year, including the Alamo Bowl.

Every other player who started at cornerback or safety returns, including — as mentioned earlier — Trufant and Parker, who each started all 13 games. Others who started last year were Ducre (five games at cornerback), Glenn (five at free safety), Fellner (four at free safety) and Shamburger (four at free safety).

The presence of four players back at safety with significant starting experience, plus some talented young players such as Feeney (who drew raves while redshirting last year) and Thompson (the highlight player in the Class of 2012) make safety maybe the most well-stocked position on the entire roster. That said, the UW defense was what it was last year and improvement is needed everywhere, safety included.

The potential move to more 3-4 schemes could mean some of the safeties get looks at outside linebacker-type spots in the spring.

As for those returning, Parker emerged last season as one of UW’s better defenders, beginning to fulfill a lot of the promise he arrived with in 2011 as one of the more celebrated signees of the Steve Sarkisian era. Fellner. Glenn and Shamburger took turns manning the free safety spot, a rotation forced largely due to injuries — Fellner started the first two games before suffering a hamstrinig injury and giving way to Glenn, who started the next five before suffering a concussion that limited his play. Shamburger took over but then also suffered a concussion, with Fellner returning to start the last two.

If Stevenson is healthy (he was limited to seven games last year due largely to a knee injury) he’ll be in the mix this spring, as well, as will Sample, Fenney and Zeger. Sample, however, was used quite a bit at cornerback last season in practice and could be moved there.

Thompson won’t arrive until the fall, but it’s hard to imagine he also won’t immediately get right into the fray for playing time, as well. He projects more as a strong safety but you’d figure they’ll find ways to get him on the field however they can.

Trufant — for as frustrating as he may be to UW fans — seems pretty set at one cornerback spot. As a senior, he’ll be one of the leaders of the 2012 Huskies, and he’ll also hope to avoid the nagging injuries that have seemed to be a constant plague. Ducre is the most experienced at the other side and the probably leader on the depth chart heading into the spring. But again, UW needs improvement everywhere on defense so few jobs should be considered sewn up.

Long, who missed last year with an ACL injury, is a wildcard in the competition as he projected to have a significant role last season before his injury. Gobern also will be in the mix (and has also become a valued special teams player).

Peters elicited a lot of enthusiasm with his play in fall camp and was close at several points to coming out of his redshirt year. Few would be surprised if he earned a starting role.

Sims, a JC transfer who signed in 2011 but didn’t enroll until January while working out his academics, will be one of the most intriguing players to watch this spring — at 6-2, he’s taller than any of UW’s other cornerbacks. While officially listed as an athlete, Sarkisian has said repeatedly Sims will begins his UW career at cornerback.

The Huskies also hit the cornerback spot hard in recruiting, replenishing the depth at a spot that has been dangerously thin the last few years. One or two of that group could also emerge in the rotation this fall.

The returning experience and influx of highly-touted players mean the secondary should be vastly improved in 2012. Like the rest of the defense, though, there’s still a lot of work to do.

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