Washington sported one of the better pass defenses in the country last year, ranking 10th in Pass-Efficiency Defense; in more advanced metrics such as Bill Connelly's S&P measure the Huskies fared even better, ranking 6th. However, that success wasn't completely built off of intercepting a ton of passes - the Huskies ranked 28th in interceptions per game, and by interception percentage they ranked 59th. So there's room for improvement in terms of generating turnovers. The good news is returning half of their interceptions from last year; the bad news is they're replacing most of their secondary. Let's take a look at the three players I consider the best options to lead the team in interceptions in 2014:
Option #1 - CB Marcus Peters, RS-Jr
Peters is the easy choice here - he led the team in picks last year with 5 and tied for the team lead the year before with 3, so he's clearly shown his ability to be a ballhawk. He's also an All-Conference and All-American candidate, one of the top returning CB's in the country and a pretty good bet to declare for the NFL draft after this year despite having another season of eligibility available. He's an aggressive corner and thrived under the coaching of Justin Wilcox & Keith Heyward as they favored man schemes. He possesses good size at 6'0", 190 lbs and has the confidence you love to see in a corner.
He's also the only returning starter in the secondary and one of only two returning CB's (Travell Dixon is the other). There's reason to think that opposing offenses will opt to avoid his side of the field and test the newcomers, limiting his opportunities.
Reasons for: He's lead the team both of his years as an active player; he's the most polished and proven player in the secondary
Reasons against: Opposing QB's may avoid his side of the field
Option #2 - MLB John Timu, RS-Sr
Timu may seem like an odd choice, and to clear, if he leads the team in interceptions it probably means the defense didn't generate a lot of them. But the former H.S. QB is known for his savvy on the field and possesses reasonable mobility for a MLB. He's had 2 picks in each of the last two seasons, and has had at least one additional pick-6 called back due to a defensive penalty, so he's shown an ability to fool QB's and step into some passes in the middle of the field. With a front four that should generate an above-average pass rush, opponents will likely be forced into a lot of quick throws and Timu could be the beneficiary.
Reasons for: He's shown his playmaking ability in coverage
Reasons against: As a LB he won't have as many opportunities to make plays in the passing game as those in the secondary
Option #3 - S Brandon Beaver, RS-So
To be clear, there are any number of guys I could have listed here: CB Jermaine Kelly, S Kevin King, S Trevor Walker, OLB Shaq Thompson are all candidates. But after a season where he appeared to get passed in the depth by a couple of guys in the class below him (King, Walker), Beaver has impressed in Spring and especially Fall Camps. He's been running with the 1's and according to practice reports he's been a big-time playmaker, seeming to come up with an interception in team sessions nearly every practice.
Beaver was thought to be a CB when signed as a touted prospect out of Dominguez H.S. in Compton, CA. But he was switched to S under the previous staff and found himself passed on the depth charts, appearing in just 6 games last year as a reserve. However the light appears to be turning on for him under the new staff, and his coverage skills seem to be on display. If he retains his hold on the 1st team he'll certainly get his chances this season to steal some passes.
Reasons for: Seems to be a good bet to win the starting FS job; has displayed playmaking ability in practices
Reasons against: Has little game experience; might find himself beat out for the job
The Verdict - Marcus Peters
This is certainly the safest pick and a pretty obvious one given the experience level in the secondary. He led the team in interceptions last year and tied for the lead the year before in his first year as a starter, so the track record is there. The only things standing in his way of doing it again are (knock on wood) injury, and whether teams avoid throwing in his direction in a major way.
What do you think? Vote below and let us know your pick!