2014 Class Positional Impact: Defensive Backs

Today we continue our position-by-position look at how the players in the 2014 class will impact each position, where they fit into the depth as well as how they will effect things this fall and in the future. In this article we look at the impact of the seven defensive backs that signed with the Dawgs on February 5th...

Who Signed

S Budda Baker (Bellevue High School - Bellevue, Wa.)
CB Naijiel Hale (St. John Bosco High School - Bellflower, Ca.)
S Jojo McIntosh (Chaminade College Prep - West Hills, Ca.)
S Darren Gardenhire (Cabrillo High School - Long Beach, Ca.)
CB Brandon Lewis (Pleasant Grove High School - Elk Grove, Ca.)
CB Sidney Jones (West Covina High School - West Covina, Ca.)
S Lavon Washington (McClymonds High School - Oakland, Ca.)


Heading into the 2014 recruiting cycle, it was apparent early on that the Huskies were going to be in the market for at least five players in the secondary with an outside shot, with attrition, at them taking seven.

The old staff was in on some big-time prospects including Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Ca.) CB Jonathan Lockett and Lamar (Houston, Tx.) CB John Plattenburg. Lockett actually committed to the Dawgs shortly after attending the Rising Stars camp while Plattenburg appeared close to committing, but opted to keep things open.

Once Keith Heyward followed Steve Sarkisian to USC, Lockett quickly switched his commitment to the Trojans and Plattenburg, while keeping things on the down low, eventually committed to USC as well.

Washington was already committed to the Huskies and he was one of three holdovers, along with OT Matt James and LB Drew Lewis, that signed with the Dawgs after committing to the old staff.

The new staff got to work immediately when they discovered the dire straights the secondary was in, especially with the transfer of CB Cleveland Wallace to San Jose State.

Gardenhire committed to Washington State in late November, but he was the first player to switch his commitment to the Huskies after Chris Petersen was hired and he was followed by McIntosh who was a heavy lean to Boise State before Jimmy Lake and Petersen headed to Montlake.

Lewis committed to Lake and Petersen at Boise State early in recruiting process, but when he had the chance to join them at Washington, that was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Jones switched his commitment twice, first opting to flip from San Jose State to Utah and then, shortly thereafter, he committed to the Dawgs.

Hale (Arizona) and Baker (Oregon) were both committed to Pac 12 schools, but the opportunities with the Dawgs were too good to pass up and both four-star defensive backs made late splashes with their decisions, giving the Huskies momentum as they got closer to Signing Day.

Scouting/Film Study

Of the safeties, Baker is the big name and, even though he won't wow you with his physical attributes, when he steps on the field, the talented local prospect makes his presence felt. He's not a big-hitter in the sense that he will be that intimidating factor when receivers come across the middle, but his ball skills are top-notch and he'll be physical in run-support.

Baker compared his game to future NFL Hall-of-Famer Ed Reed in an interview we did with him and we couldn't agree more.

McIntosh looks like an ideal fit at strong safety as he's a very good tackler and he likes to come up and be physical at the line of scrimmage. His coverage skills are solid, but he definitely isn't cut out to cover receivers all over the field. He'll be at his best in zones, making plays on the ball when it's in the air.

With his long arms and aggressive style, Gardenhire seems like a nice hybrid type that can play corner when called upon or he can be a cover-safety, something that is definitely a necessity against the spread offenses being employed nowadays.

Washington, like Baker, will not wow you with his size or speed, but he's got a knack for being around the ball and leadership qualities.

When Lewis committed, Brandon Huffman said that he could wind up being one of the steals of the 2014 recruiting class. As a sophomore, Lewis was rated as one of the top 150 players in the nation, however, he missed his junior season with a knee injury and thus his stock dropped. He bounced back with a solid senior campaign and that is why there is hope he can be the standout the Huskies are looking for at corner.

Lewis is an aggressive cover-corner who is probably at his best playing zone where he can use his outstanding instincts and ball skills to make plays. His injury may have cost him a little speed, but he's still plenty quick enough to get the job done outside.

Getting Hale out of the clutches of Rich Rodriguez down at Arizona was a huge coup for the Dawgs and he'll be a player that should press for playing time early in his career. Hale is super-aggressive and very physical. His style will remind fans of Desmond Trufant although he's a little bit bigger, but not quite as fast.

Jones, like Gardenhire, has a long frame and he's very athletic. He needs to polish up his coverage technique and get stronger, but he'll be a nice fit at one of the corner spots in the next couple of years.

Depth Chart/The Future

Luckily for the Dawgs, Marcus Peters decided to stick around for his junior season. The talented corner could have left after what turned out to be a very good sophomore season, but he opted to return and should be in line for All-Conference if not All-American honors if he progresses like many think.

Aside from him though, the secondary is wide open for playing time and the youngsters could be thrust into the depth very early this coming season.

Opposite Peters, the Huskies have the likes of senior fifth-year senior Travell Dixon and redshirt freshman Jermaine Kelly. Dixon has seen little in the way of playing time to this point after transferring from Alabama and Kelly obviously hasn't played yet since he redshirted last fall.

Brandon Beaver and Patrick Enewally both look like players who could play some corner, but they are better suited at safety.

Kevin King had a solid freshman season last fall, but he will miss all of spring ball after undergoing shoulder surgery (although he has been taking part in non-contact stuff).

Trevor Walker is another solid youngster showed a lot of promise last fall as a true freshman and he looks like the future at strong safety.

The expectation is that at least two or possibly three incoming freshmen will need to play this fall.

My expectation is that Lewis and Hale will see playing time at corner while either Baker, McIntosh or Gardenhire will get some reps at safety with all of them very possibly contributing on special teams.

This fall, I expect Baker will wind up starting by the end of the season with Hale and possibly Lewis seeing significant time in the nickel package.

The experience this fall should make a much better transition to 2015 where the expectation is that Peters will leave early and Dixon will have used up his eligibility.

It still remains to be seen how the new staff plans to use Beaver and Enewally, so we'll have to just guess, but they seem like better fits at safety or, at the very least, cover safety.

I expect Baker to wind up starting at free safety starting in 2015 and he'll play alongside Walker who looks ready for a breakout season this fall. King will be in the mix as well, but it really looks like he could use a redshirt season to get stronger. With his length and relative lack of size, free safety will be his spot so he'll need to rotate with Baker.

Lewis, Hale and Kelly make a nice trio of corners and Jones looks like he has some star qualities as well.

McIntosh, Gardenhire and Washington will all be in the depth at safety with Gardenhire likely at free safety and McIntosh down in the box at strong safety.

Washington is a bit of a mystery, so it will be interesting to see where he ultimately fits in.

Expect the Huskies to take another big class in the secondary, likely five players, and for them to continue the trend of finding players who can play safety or corner, depending on need and depth.

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