2013 Spring Previews
In the first year with the overhauled defensive coaching staff, the secondary took their game to another level. Vaulting from being one the worst units in the country into the top 30, the veteran group played very aggressive and "in your face" football. You really can't say enough about Keith Heyward and GA Donte Williams and their ability to really mesh with the players. Sean Parker provided the hits, and Desmond Trufant brought the lockdown coverage. Justin Glenn played opposite Parker at FS and was a heady and experienced presence in the back end. Across from Trufant, Tre Watson started the first 5 games at which point Marcus Peters took over and showed a lot of promise for just a redshirt freshman. With some veteran leadership and timely coaching, this group exceeded expectations.
Outgoing and Incoming
So much has been said about Desmond Trufant recently because of his impressive combine performance and first round projections that it makes it easy to forget about the loss of Justin Glenn. Replacing those two seniors won't be easy, but those are the only two meaningful losses in the secondary. There a number of new faces coming in for the spring and some appear ready to get into the rotation early in their careers. First, there is freshman early enrollee Trevor Walker, a safety from Texas. The other safeties are redshirt freshmen Brandon Beaver and Darien Washington. At corner, there's touted Alabama transfer Travelle Dixon and Cleveland Wallace.
Spring Depth Chart
CB: RSoph. Marcus Peters // Sr. Tre Watson
FS: RSr. Will Shamburger // RFr. Brandon Beaver
SS: Sr. Sean Parker // Fr. Trevor Walker
CB: Sr. Greg Ducre // RJr. Travelle Dixon // RFr. Cleveland Wallace
As you can see, the depth isn't great at safety and expect Trevor Walker to be in the mix early to spell Shamburger. Shamburger has been solid for the Huskies, but has never really emerged as a great player. This is his last spring to state his case or risk being passed up by incoming talent. Corner has good depth and talent, with each of Ducre, Peters, and Watson having at least half a season of starting experience. Ducre recently impressed with his 6.81 in the 60-meter dash running for UW's Track Team, so he can really scoot. Cleveland Wallace will also have every chance to impress and has been cited for his scout team work numerous times by coaches.
Three Questions for Spring
1. Who else will bring the big hits?
Right now, Sean Parker is the only player in the secondary who is a true "enforcer" and big hitter. Justin Wilcox and Keith Heyward want a punishing and physical group but some players need to take it up a notch to get there. With his size, Travelle Dixon is the prime candidate to be a Richard Sherman type of corner. Trevor Walker is another big hitter type but it's hard to expect much from the true freshman safety.
2. Who will replace Desmond Trufant?
Having a player like Trufant is a true luxury for a defensive coordinator. Knowing that you take away one side of the field opens a lot of doors schematically and lets play callers get much more creative. The most logical candidate to assume Trufant's role is Marcus Peters, who is the best pure cover corner on the roster. He got burned on double moves from time to time last year, but entering his 3rd year should help. The X-Factor could be Travelle Dixon, who has size and strength to match up with most receivers, plus he can really run.
3. Can the secondary avoid the penalties and mental errors?
As great as the secondary was last season, they still got gashed in some games and committed too many penalties. That means they were playing aggressive and with some swagger, but sometimes it can cost you a drive when you commit a penalty, or bite on a double move. The secondary is still veteran heavy, so after another year in the defensive system, I would expect the penalties to go down. That being said, if the choices are that, or physical man coverage, I'd choose the latter.
Key Position Battles
There are two big positions up for grabs: Desmond Trufant's vacant corner spot, and FS across from Sean Parker. With depth thin at safety, expect a lot of experimentation to find the right partnership in the back. Will Shamburger will get the first look because he's a senior, but watch out for Brandon Beaver, coming off a redshirt year. He has the size and coverage ability the coaches want from the safeties, especially when considering the spread offenses of the Pac-12. If Trevor Walker picks things up quickly in spring practice, he could figure into the mix as a true freshman in the fall, but I would imagine the coaches would prefer to redshirt him. Cornerback on the other hand, has a lot more depth and players to choose from to replace Trufant. Marcus Peters was the 2nd best corner on the team last year, so he will probably be paired against the opponent's best receiver. Flanking him, will most likely Travelle Dixon, or Greg Ducre. Ducre is one of the fastest players on the team, and has a lot of experience. Dixon is big, pretty fast, and can hit, but his coverage ability remains to be seen. Expect both to get a lot of playing time even if they aren't starting. With the plethora of 5 receiver sets in Pac-12 offenses, the coaches will also throw former walk-on Tre Watson into the mix. He has shown an ability to make plays when in position and use his high football IQ to always be around the ball.
You've got to feel good about where this unit is heading going into spring. The strength of the team, they should only get better next year provided a FS emerges to partner with Sean Parker. There's enough talent and experience at corner to help mitigate the loss Trufant but I'm not sure there is a single player ready yet to take over for him completely. Marcus Peters and maybe Cleveland Wallace down the line have the potential to develop into the quality that Trufant was. This is one the most talented units on the team and the players vying for the starting spots are very good. This should be a very exciting spring for the DBs!
- Jeffrey Gormon