We’ll continue our position previews with a look at the secondary.
A LOOK BACK AT 2012
Like every other area of the defense in 2012, the secondary had new coaches — Keith Heyward as defensive backs coach with graduate assistant Donte Williams helping with the corners as well as a big assist from coordinator Justin Wilcox, a defensive back during his college playing days.
The new coaches meshed with a veteran defensive back corps to help the Huskies improve dramatically in pass defense in 2012. Granted, stats of any nature in football can deceive. But in the case of the UW pass defense, the numbers are too stark toignore. In 2011, UW was 87th in pass efficiency defense and 116th in pass defense (yards allowed passing), giving up 284.62 per game. In 2012, UW was 27th in pass efficiency defense and 23rd in yards allowed (197.31).
UW’s secondary was led by three players who all entered the season with significant starting experience — strong safety Sean Parker (pictured above), free safety Justin Glenn and cornerback Desmond Trufant. Trufant missed one game due to injury, otherwise those three were available for every game. At the other corner spot, Tre Watson started the first five games before Marcus Peters took over, starting the final eight. Will Shamburger also got two starts early at free safety and Greg Ducre got one start at corner in place of Trufant as the Huskies were able pretty early to settle on a pretty set rotation at both cornerback and safety.
Schematically, the Huskies went with more man defense in 2012, something that fits Wilcox’s philosophy but something that was made easier to implement due to the veteran nature of the players in the secondary. In particular, Trufant’s ability to play man coverage against an opponent’s best receiver made life a lot easier for the rest of the secondary.
The ability of Glenn to stay healthy for the full season was also critical as he proved a steady and heady presence in the secondary as he teamed with Parker (who started every game for the second consecutive season) one of the best safety tandems UW has had in a while.
A LOOK AHEAD
As the Huskies enter 2013, the secondary takes as big of a graduation hit as any area of the team with Trufant and Glenn departing — Trufant possibly to be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft next month.
How UW replaces each will loom large in the success of the defense in 2013.
Parker, now entering his third year as a full-time starter, will be back at strong safety and also as a leader of the defense — he was voted by teammates as a captain last season.
As for free safety, Shamburger, a fifth-year senior who has started six games in his career, was Glenn’s backup last season and will likely be above the depth chart when spring begins. UW has no other players with any real experience at that spot, however, so any competition will come from newer players. One possibility is redshirt frosh Brandon Beaver, who got a lot of work at safety during the practices for the Las Vegas Bowl, though UW coach Steve Sarkisian said recently Beaver will also get some work at cornerback (and also will be limited early on in spring workouts with a sports hernia injury).
The only other two scholarship players on the roster listed solely as safeties are redshirt frosh Darien Washington, who battled injuries last fall, and true freshman Trevor Walker, one of two Class of 2013 signees who will be available for all of spring practice.
But as became evident last season, Wilcox is not reluctant to move players around and it would be little surprise to see some juggling of players in the back end as spring progresses as the Huskies attempt to find the right mix.
While Trufant departs, Peters, Ducre and Watson all return at cornerback with at least a half-season of starting experience in their careers. Peters, after starting the final eight games of last season, appears solid as one starter entering spring.
Ducre, now a senior who started six games in 2011 and one last season, figures to enter spring atop the depth chart at the other corner spot.
He has impressed with his speed this winter running for UW’s indoor track team, recently running a 6.81 in the 60-meter dash.
Sarkisian said the times weren’t a surprise and hopes there will be some carryover from the track success to the football field.
“We have always known he is fast,” Sarkisian said, adding the track success may help Ducre “to have the confidence in his speed and believe in his speed that he can run with anybody to maybe play a little tighter coverage and to know that it is going to take somebody really special to try to run by him.”
Watson also remains in the mix. And then there are two players coming off of redshirt seasons who will prove intriguing — junior transfer Travell Dixon and redshirt freshman Cleveland Wallace. Dixon came to UW last fall after having signed with Alabama out of junior college, and now has two years to play two for the Huskies. After arriving late and spending last season on the scout team, spring will provide UW with its first extended look at Dixon. Wallace also know is coming off a redshirt season in which he was regularly cited by coaches for his play.
UW signed three cornerbacks in February — Jermaine Kelly, Kevin King and Patrick Enewally — but none will arrive in time for spring ball.