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Washington Huskies Football 2016 Preview Better/Worse/Neutral: Defensive Backs

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In the latest edition of our Better/Worse/Neutral series, we take a look at the defensive secondary, which returns virtually the entire group from last year’s unit.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Losses: S Brian Clay
Additions: Byron Murphy (5-11, 172 lbs.; four-star), Kentrell Love (6-1, 165 lbs.; four-star), Isaiah Gilchrist (5-10, 188 lbs.; four-star), Taylor Rapp (6-0, 206 lbs.; three-star), Myles Bryant (5-9, 175 lbs.; three-star walk-on)

Part of the reason why the Huskies have gotten so much offseason hype for the 2016 season is the amount of talent and depth they return on what was the Pac-12’s No. 1 defense last year. The defensive backs are as emblematic as any group in that regard, losing safety Bryan Clay to graduation but returning every other player of significance. Statistically, that means that among the Huskies’ defensive backs, the team returns players who made 80.2 percent of the position group’s tackles; 86.3 percent of its tackles for loss; 97 percent of its passes defensed; and 100 percent of its fumbles forced.

In addition to that returning production, Jimmy Lake welcomes five freshman players into his ranks, three of whom (Murphy, Love, and Gilchrist) are regarded as legitimate four-star blue chippers, while the argument has been made that Rapp belongs in that discussion, too.

If his 2016 season that continues the upward trend he showed from 2014 to 2015, when he finished the season as a first-team all-conference selection, Sidney Jones will legitimately be in the hunt for All-American honors. Moreover, he will likely make himself into Washington’s third first-round draft pick at cornerback since the Atlanta Falcons spent the 22nd overall pick in 2013 on Desmond Trufant. His fellow first-team all-conference honoree, safety Budda Baker, is another player who could make himself into a candidate for early entry into the 2017 NFL Draft following a strong season.

Meanwhile, fellow cornerbacks Kevin King and Darren Gardenhire are proven commodities who would likely start for a majority of Pac-12 teams, and Jordan Miller is a rising star who has the potential to someday become as highly regarded at cornerback as were Trufant, Marcus Peters, and Jones before him. In addition, cornerback Brandon Lewis and safeties Zeke Turner and Jojo McIntosh will have the opportunity to go from quality depth players to household names among Husky fans if they continue to improve the way they showed themselves capable of last year.

Lastly, Austin Joyner, Brandon Beaver, and Trevor Walker are working to get back on the field following season-ending injuries suffered in 2015 or late 2014. Considering the quality depth surrounding them, each should have the luxury of easing back into the swing of things, which should only help them and the team in the long run.