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UW Fall Camp Preview - Defensive Backs

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As fall camp gets set to start on August 3rd, our next preview brings us to the defensive backs, and questions abound.

Image courtesy of Alex Oroszlan. Find him on </span><a href="https://twitter.com/alexoro993">Twitter</a><span> and </span><a href="http://instagram.com/beyondtheboard">Instagram</a><span>, and contact him at alexoroszlanbasketball@gmail.com.
Image courtesy of Alex Oroszlan. Find him on
Twitter and Instagram, and contact him at alexoroszlanbasketball@gmail.com.

Be sure to check out Kirk's fall QB preview here

Who's Gone (6)

Sean Parker: 67 T, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 4 INT, 4 PD

Will Shamburger: 47 T, 1.5 TFL, 1 PD

Greg Ducre: 44 T, 1.5 TFL, 2 INT, 7 PD

Tre Watson: 50 T, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT (TD), 9PD, 1 FF, 1 FR

Patrick Enewaly: (no stats)

Cleveland Wallace: (no stats)

Edited to add Tre Watson; Thanks for the heads-up, ET's Dreadlocks

Key Returners (8)

Marcus Peters (RS Jr): 55 T, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 5 INT, 9 PD, 1 FF

Kevin King (So): 17 T, 1 PD

Brandon Beaver (RS So): 2 T

Travell Dixon (RS Sr): 8 T, 1 PD, 1 FF

Trevor Walker (So): 6 T

Jermaine Kelly (RS Fr): Redshirted

Brian Clay (RS Jr): Walk-on, redshirted due to transfer

Thomas Vincent (RS Jr): no stats, walk-on

Gone are three starters that helped lead the Huskies to the 6th-best passing defense by S&P+ in 2013. That blow is softened some with the talent that the Dawgs return along the front seven, and when that one returning player is junior Marcus Peters. Peters has excellent size at 6'-0" and 198 pounds, and while he isn't the fastest Husky, speed hasn't seemed to be a weakness for him by any stretch. He's been named to both the Jim Thorpe Award and Bronco Nagurski Award Preseason Watch Lists for 2014, as well as being heavily mentioned in preseason All Pac 12 teams. What's missing is the All-American recognition, but make no mistake, Peters deserves it. After losing Desmond Trufant to the draft following the 2012 season, Peters has stepped up and maybe been even better. The down side to that is that this is likely the last season Peters will play in the purple and gold, after giving minor consideration to declaring for the draft after his sophomore campaign.

Kevin King may have been the most pleasant surprise of the Husky defense in 2013. Tall and rangy, he plays the game with abandon. He's extremely athletic, as his results in the Husky Spring Combine showed. Fellow true freshman Trevor Walker got all of the praise in the spring of 2013 as an early enrollee, but it was King who was the first freshman off the bench on defense, and the first to earn a start (against Colorado). Injuries hampered King in the second half of the season, and he's definitely going to need to add weight to his thin frame, but it seems highly likely that he'll step in to one of the starting spots come fall. It wouldn't be at all surprising if Walker is the guy next to him.

The former coaching staff sang the praises of Jermaine Kelly throughout his redshirt season, and there was even some talk of pulling his redshirt and getting him on the field. Fortunately, that didn't happen. After starting out running with the second-team defense, Kelly earned the starting nod opposite Peters the second half of the spring session. It appears to be his job to lose at this point.

Brandon Beaver and especially Travell Dixon entered the UW with quite a bit of hype, but neither has been able to carve out a significant role as of yet. As a senior, this is Dixon's final shot, and he ran with the first team defense at corner the first part of spring until Kelly seemingly took the job from him. With his size and speed, there's some thought that he might get a look at safety, but that didn't really happen this spring. Beaver spent a considerable amount of time with the starters back in April, but it's hard to know if that was on merit, or lack of depth and the injury situation in the secondary. In the eyes of the previous coaching staff, he'd largely been passed over in favor of younger players. Like everybody else on the roster, he's got a clean slate, but it appears he's got some work to do in order to get significant playing time.

Brian Clay sat out the 2013 season after transferring in from Hawaii, but the coaches seemed very high on his play this spring. The same holds true for fellow walk-on and converted quarterback Thomas Vincent. While it would be a surprise if either ended up starting, Clay in particular could add depth, and both will likely add value to the Husky special teams.

Newcomers (7)

Bishard (Budda) Baker (S) 4*

Naijiel Hale (CB) 4*

Sidney Jones (CB) 3*

Brandon Lewis (S) 3*

Jojo McIntosh (S) 3*

Darren Gardenhire (S) 3*

Lavon Washington 3*

One might take a look at Chris Petersen's first recruiting class and get the sense that he had concerns about the depth of the Huskies' secondary. One third of the 21 players that committed to Petersen and signed with Washington in 2014 play in the defensive backfield. That's a lot. Six of these new Huskies were committed to other programs prior to Petersen's hire; only Washington had committed to the previous staff. Lewis was originally committed to Boise State under Petersen, and happily flipped to Washington. McIntosh was a UCLA verbal, and Gardenhire had committed to the Pirate of the Palouse. Jones had recently committed to Utah before flipping. Hale (Arizona) and Baker (kind of an Oregon commit) are the two brightest stars of the class, and likely wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the hiring of Petersen.

Due to the aforementioned lack of depth on the roster at defensive back for 2014, it's likely that a few of these guys are going to play this fall. According to our own Redmond Longhorn, who isn't comparing Baker to Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks, Baker TOTALLY reminds him of Earl Thomas. And if you've seen Baker play, it's a good comparison, and not just due to similar size. Baker is very fast, and instinctive, and he's the type of player that can make the field smaller for an offense. Baker is also a great return man. He might not start the very first game at safety, but he's likely to crack the rotation early on, and it's extremely possible he's The Man by the end of the year. Hale has very good speed, and is very fluid at the corner position, but even though he's a little on the light side right now, he's a guy that loves contact and delivering a blow, and just based on numbers, he might very well be in the two-deeps already. Hale and Baker are both definitely candidates to be a 5th or 6th defensive back, depending on what opposing offenses do. Based on accolades, these two seem the most likely to play. By saying that, I've probably just guaranteed both redshirt, and the other five all see the field....

And it just might happen. I don't think Chris Petersen "loves" to play freshmen, but he's not afraid to do so. While I'd love for all of them to spend 2014 in the weight room and the kitchen adding some size and strength, each looks to have the athleticism, instinctiveness and aggression to contribute defensively or on special teams if called upon.

Analysis

While it's fair to expect the secondary to take a step back from the often times dominant pass defense we saw in 2013 due to attrition, there are three factors that will help them ease the transition to the new guard. First is the weak early schedule. With no real challenge until the Stanford game, the new starters (and the depth) will have 4 games to acclimate themselves. That's a good thing.

Second, that one returning starter is an All-American caliber cornerback. Marcus Peters is going to make the jobs of the safeties that much easier.

Last, and probably most importantly, the Huskies are going to be able to get after the quarterback this season. There's more speed, and depth, and talent on the defensive line than we've seen on Montlake in over a decade. In coverage, it's fractions of seconds that make the difference between doing your job well, and giving up a big play. The defensive line and linebackers are going to be the secondary's best friends this year.

Even if the true freshmen aren't counted on all that much, make no mistake that youth is going to be served in the secondary this season. It's likely that 3 of the four starters will be underclassmen, and that most of the primary backups are as well. There will be growing pains, and even though the non-conference schedule isn't too formidable, it's likely that fans are going to see opposing receivers running free down the middle of the field more than they'd like. With the talent at QB and receiver in the Pac 12, the secondary is going to give up yards. But there's talent that's going to grow up, and the grey hairs in front of them are going to help them do so.

Player to Watch

Jermaine Kelly

Greg Ducre did an excellent job as the second corner last year. An underrated job. It's up to Kelly (most likely) to step forward and be Robin to Peters' Batman. If Kelly can play as well as Ducre did last season, it'll go a long way to mitigating the rest of the losses in the secondary.

Even though most Husky fans would call Danny Shelton the most indispensable player on defense, Marcus Peters isn't too far behind. If he were to go down with an injury, the secondary is a complete rebuild, and the Huskies would be without the guy that's maybe the most talented player out there. It's crucial that he stays healthy in 2014. But this isn't news.

Guesses at the depth chart to start with? Here goes....

CB: Peters, Hale

CB: Kelly, Dixon

SS: Walker, Beaver

FS: King, Clay OR Thomas (edit - Earl Thomas Jr....aka Budda Baker)

Maybe.

The Fall Camp Preview Schedule:

7/28: Running Backs (Ryan Priest

7/29: Defensive Line (Jesse Kennemer)

7/30: Linebackers (Ryan Priest)

7/31: Receivers (Chris Landon)

8/1: Offensive Line (Kirk DeGrasse)

8/2: Special Teams (Brad Johnson)

8/3: Coaches (Chris Landon)