Fall Camp Preview: Secondary

As we count down to the start of fall camp, which kicks off on August 5th, it's time to take a position-by-position look at the Huskies. Today, we look at the secondary. UW needs to replace two starters, including an NFL first-round pick at cornerback. There are quality backups, as well as some true freshmen that should be allowed to redshirt. Could one surprise in fall camp? Let's take a look.

The Players:
Cornerbacks
18 Gregory Ducre 5-10, 177, Sr.
- Ducre was never going to get the headlines Desmond Trufant demanded, but people may forget that he's played in every game since coming to Montlake in 2010. That means 39-straight games the senior from Los Angeles has either started or played in, so his experience is tough to beat. Ducre has always had the speed necessary to play on the edge, but now he's a savvy veteran and has been through the heat of battle many times.
26 Travell Dixon 6-1, 190, Jr. - It's hard to think of another defensive back transfer that has come in with as much mystery as Dixon, who originally signed with Alabama out of Eastern Arizona JC, only to bounce back to Washington last fall. Everyone is intrigued with all the things that not only got him to Tuscaloosa, but also turned him into a JUCO All-American. Dixon has the size, athleticism and physicality to be a key contributor for his final two years in college
21 Marcus Peters 5-11, 194, So. - Starting the final eight games of the 2012 season, Peters wasn't exactly thrown into the fire as a redshirt frosh, but he was considered the best available option for UW at the time and the coaches were willing to accept a certain amount of growing pains while the Bay Area standout learned to ropes. 2013 is the year where those experiences learned last year bear fruit. Peters is a confident corner in the mold of Trufant and should get better with more playing time. He doesn't have a spot locked down yet, but he's not far off either.
3 Cleveland Wallace 5-11, 165, RFr. - Snagged by the Huskies over Oregon State during Keith Heyward's transition to UW, Wallace was named the Brian Stapp Special Teams Scout Squad MVP this past fall, giving rise to expectations that Wallace will see playing time at least as a gunner or cover man during punts and kicks, while also competing for time at corner. He was an all-everything player at Oak Grove High School in the Bay Area, so his versatility is bound to come in handy this fall as he continues to develop and find his niche within this group of cornerbacks.
6 Jermaine Kelly 6-2, 183, Fr. - With four cornerbacks ahead of the true freshmen coming in the program, it would be nice to be able to redshirt all of them…but they might just be ready to contribute from the jump. If that's the case, Kelly just might be the one that is the most ready. He was rated as a top-25 prospect nationally by basically every scouting service, and he's also a competent special teams performer. At 6-foot-2, Kelly has the size necessary to compete with the bigger receivers in the Pac-12.
30 Patrick Enewally 6-1, 184, Fr. - Enewally played safety at Gahr, actually spending one year there with current Husky Joshua Perkins, but there's talk that he will compete from the start at cornerback. At 6-foot-1, Enewally brings needed size to the position, as well as a reputation for being a rough competitor and hard hitter. There's no question he could also get some looks as a nickel back given his prep experience and versatility.
20 Kevin King 6-2, 178, Fr. - When you look at King and the versatility he brings to the Washington program after playing both ways for Bishop O'Dowd High School (including quarterback), it's not hard to see the pattern developing under Heyward, Justin Wilcox, and Steve Sarkisian - they want their defensive backs to be long, rangy athletes that have a wealth of experience playing everywhere on the field. King looks to be one the coaches plan to salt away for the future as he gets bigger, stronger and faster in the weight room.

Safeties
1 Sean Parker 5-10, 190, Sr.
- The unquestioned leader of the Washington secondary, Parker comes to the 2013 season on the heels of back-to-back full years as a starter - that's 26-straight starts. He was the leading tackler of the defensive backs and also had a couple of interceptions - but the play he'll probably be known for was the hit he put on Oregon State receiver Markus Wheaton. Jarring the ball loose, Justin Glenn made a spectacular diving interception, while Parker knocked Wheaton out of the game with his monstrous hit.
13 Will Shamburger 6-0, 185, Sr. - A fifth-year senior, Shamburger is one of the few players still at UW that has been with Sarkisian during his full tenure. He has six career starts under his belt and seemed to have a stranglehold over the other safety spot opposite Sean Parker after a strong performance during spring football. Shamburger obviously has the experience, bringing a wise head and intelligent play into the conversation. He may not be physically the most athletic or fastest player, but Justin Glenn showed last season a lot can be said for being in the right place at the right time when it comes to making the play.
14 Taz Stevenson 6-0, 185, Sr. - Stevenson could be a real wild card at this position. Another senior, albeit a four-year senior, the Hawaii native started out at safety and then moved up to linebacker and will finish out his UW career back at safety. He has played in 34 games so far, so Taz is another player that brings needed experience and a strong football IQ into the mix. A knee injury a couple of years ago robbed Stevenson of his top-end speed, but he can still be a very effective contributor as a role player - maybe even as an extra defensive back in UW's nickel, dime, and penny packages.
32 Tre Watson 5-9, 183, Sr. - A real success story, the former Central Washington defensive back pushed his way into the conversation at Washington as a walk-on in 2012, eventually earning a scholarship. He even started his first game versus San Diego State! He eventually played in every game, starting the first five games of the year. Watson also got some looks this spring at safety and could also be used as one of those versatile defensive backs when UW goes into their multiple DB looks.
9 Brandon Beaver 6-0, 181, RFr. - A bright, shining star on the horizon, Beaver was one of the blue chips of Washington's 2012 class, having played at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Beaver came to UW as a cornerback, but was moved to safety during December's bowl practices. There's no question Beaver has the ability and athleticism to wedge his way into a position battle this fall if he really wants it. There's no question he the talent to do it and he started to show in the spring that he was up for the challenge.
27 Trevor Walker 5-11, 180, Fr. - Walker, a true freshman, enrolled early at UW specifically to get in the safety mix for this season. Ideally it would be lovely to see a player of Walker's caliber to redshirt and learn under a player like Parker, but he showed glimpses during the spring. He can cover in space and also get downhill to support the front seven on run plays.
The Depth: Cornerback isn't the most experienced group returning for Washington. At one point Trufant had started 45-straight games for the Huskies compared to the 29 starts in 2012 between five returnees - Parker, Peters, Watson, Shamburger and Ducre. It's near impossible to replace what Tru gave the Huskies as a shutdown corner - he essentially took away at minimum a quarter of the field at all times - but Peters and Ducre aren't exactly coming into 2013 as newbies. What Dixon and Wallace bring to the depth at corner is going to be a real key this fall, as well as what one of the three true freshmen step up and assert their place int he depth. It makes sense for either Kelly, Enewally, or King to separate themselves from the others; the UW coaches would love to see one of those players legitimately take claim to allow for some separation between the three for class balance. And it doesn't necessarily have to be as a position player - Kelly has already shown that he can be a real threat in the return game, for instance.

At safety, experienced depth is going to be a little easier to come by, especially if Stevenson's return to the secondary takes hold and he's able to contribute and be healthy in 2013. That's a big if, but Watson's versatility here should also help. Brandon Beaver will be the 'x' factor for the group, because he has all the talent in the world. There's no question he can be an impact defensive back if he steps up and takes it. There is certainly room to move and this year should be Brandon's year to shine. Again, it would be great to be able to redshirt Walker in an ideal scenario, but it is somewhat comforting to know that there are six legitimate options at safety that all got work in during spring. Is it optimum depth? No, but it's certainly evolving into a much better alternative than what the Huskies have had in years' past.
The Battles: All things being equal, Peters and Ducre should have the number-one corner spots on lockdown. That's the way it should be if we take anything from how those position battles were left in April. More than anything, the competition between Dixon and Wallace for that third corner, the nickel corner spot, will be the biggest battle to watch. In a best-case situation, both step up and make it a difficult choice for the coaching staff, which means either one could be counted on to spell a starter when needed with minimum drop-off. The battle between the freshmen should also be one for the fans to note, as I do believe the coaches are going to try and promote that competition as much as possible to elevate one of them above the others immediately to create some class balance.

At safety, the battle for the spot opposite Parker has been the one big focus for fans ever since Justin Glenn's matriculation. Shamburger appeared to become the front-runner in spring, and it would be a surprise if he's not the starter August 31st versus Boise State. But Stevenson, Watson, and Beaver need to re-join the competition and push Shamburger to the brink - and I expect they will. In my mind, that spot is still open for all takers, and it's not as if the guys that don't win that spot are automatically shut out. There's always need for extra defensive backs in certain down-and-distance situations, and there's always a need for plenty of quality secondary players when dealing with the numerous up-tempo, no-huddle offenses the Huskies will see in the Pac-12. So ideally, the depth is built this fall so that the backups are completey capable of stepping in at a moment's notice and the defense just keeps on chugging.
The Future: When looking at the future of Washington's secondary, it's definitely a mixed bag. Peters should be a starter for years to come at corner, and they only lose Ducre from that position group heading into 2014, so there is plenty of talent at cornerback moving forward. By that time the immediate futures for the true freshmen will become much clearer so we'll know which ones are on the starter track, who will maybe make a move to a different position, or who may move on through attrition (because there's always attrition). At safety they lose a lot more with Parker, Shamburger, Stevenson and Watson all graduating, so don't be surprised if the Huskies look hard at getting a junior college safety or even two to help shore up that position in a hurry. And maybe moving a player like Dixon or one of the freshmen to safety in 2014 is always a possibility.


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