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Fall Position Preview - Secondary

With less than 30 days to Washington's September 3rd opener versus Rutgers, it's time to ramp things up with our fall position previews. Today we take a look at the most talented part of Washington's 2016 roster, the defensive backfield.

When you go back and look at 1991's all-time great defense, everyone remembers Steve Emtman and the linebackers - Dave Hoffmann, Donald Jones, Chico Fraley, and the late Jaime Fields.

The secondary? Of course there was Dana Hall and Tommie Smith, but do people remember Walter Bailey and Shane Pahukoa? Or the other starters that year - William Doctor and Paxton Tailele?

And the 1991 defensive backfield had to replace two long-standing servants - Charles Mincy and Eric Briscoe.

By contrast, the 2016 secondary only has to replace one starter - Brian Clay.

The 1991 group had 30 career starts between them heading into that season; this year's secondary heads into the 2016 season with 85 total career starts between seven players - Budda Baker, Sidney Jones, Kevin King, Darren Gardenhire, Ezekiel Turner, Trevor Walker, and Brandon Beaver.

What does that say about the potential of a group that was a big part of leading the Huskies to the best defense in the Pac-12 in 2015?

The pre-season magazines that rate position groups are unanimous: Washington's secondary is one of the best in the country. For example, Phil Steele has them as the No. 3 secondary in the country behind LSU and Alabama.

It's been a long time since Washington has been mentioned that prominently in any category, and it's absolutely deserved.


Defensive Backs (By Class)

Kevin King (6-3, 190, Sr.)

Brandon Beaver (6-0, 191, Sr.)

Hayden Schuh (6-0, 205, Sr.)*

Budda Baker (5-10, 184, Jr.)

Sidney Jones (6-0, 180, Jr.)

Darren Gardenhire (5-11, 187, Jr.)

Trevor Walker (5-11, 190, Jr.)

Ezekiel Turner (6-2, 210, Jr.)

Jojo McIntosh (6-1, 208, So.)

Jordan Miller (6-1, 176, So.)

Brandon Lewis (5-11, 187, So.)

Sean Vergara (6-2, 182, So.)*

Ian Biddle (6-0, 180, So.)*

Mason Stone (6-0, 180, So.)*

Austin Joyner (5-10, 190, RFr.)

Dustin Bush (5-9, 176, RFr.)*

Taylor Rapp (6-0, 206, Fr.)

Byron Murphy (5-11, 172, Fr.)

Kentrell Love (6-1, 165, Fr.)

Isaiah Gilchrist (5-10, 188, Fr.)

Myles Bryant (5-9, 175, Fr.)*

*=walk-on


Cornerback

Kevin King (6-3, 190, Sr.)

Darren Gardenhire (5-11, 187, Jr.)

Brandon Lewis (5-11, 187, So.)

Austin Joyner (5-10, 190, RFr.)

Kentrell Love (6-1, 165, Fr.)

Dustin Bush (5-9, 176, RFr.)*

Cornerback

Sidney Jones (6-0, 180, Jr.)

Jordan Miller (6-1, 176, So.)

Byron Murphy (5-11, 172, Fr.)

Isaiah Gilchrist (5-10, 188, Fr.)

Ian Biddle (6-0, 180, So.)*

Myles Bryant (5-9, 175, Fr.)*

Safety

Budda Baker (5-10, 184, Jr.)

Trevor Walker (5-11, 190, Jr.)

Brandon Beaver (6-0, 191, Sr.)

Sean Vergara (6-2, 182, So.)*

Safety

Jojo McIntosh (6-1, 208, So.)

Ezekiel Turner (6-2, 210, Jr.)

Taylor Rapp (6-0, 206, Fr.)

Hayden Schuh (6-0, 205, Sr.)*

Mason Stone (6-0, 180, So.)*


Where does the secondary stand heading into the fall?

Recently, Brandon Beaver sent out a short and simple tweet on his personal account: "I just wanna play football. I been gone too long."

When Beaver gets back from missing spring ball, the only player that's missing from the secondary is talented redshirt freshman Austin Joyner. They are the only two pieces UW Defensive Backs Coach Jimmy Lake needs to complete the puzzle.

It was encouraging to see both Trevor Walker and Brandon Lewis come back and have strong, healthy springs after redshirting in 2015. They will certainly be counted on for depth.

The fearsome foursome of Baker, Jones, King and Gardenhire will be joined this fall by two athletes looking to infiltrate their ranks: Jojo McIntosh and Jordan Miller. McIntosh had the safety spot opposite Baker on lockdown all spring, while Miller had arguably the breakout camp of any defensive player for Washington in April. He was all over the place. If there is a prospect in the UW pipeline that could be the next big-time lockdown corner, it's Miller.

Washington has four returning safeties with starts and three cornerbacks. That's coverage! That's experience they can draw from and also dig deep for when things go south. And invariably things always go south at some point in a game.

The defensive back mindset is talked about a lot, the notion of being able to erase what just happened and focus in on the play at hand. At this point there's nothing that should phase this group of players: they've seen it all.

To think that Washington has seven returning secondary players with starts, yet someone like McIntosh is in line to get his first start as a Husky versus Rutgers is impressive. It goes to the overall depth and talent that abounds in UW's defensive backfield, and it also stresses how important competition is to Lake and the DB group.

And all this has been said without one mention to the impressive incoming freshman group. As deep and as experienced as Washington's current secondary crop is, there's every reason to expect Taylor Rapp, Byron Murphy, Kentrell Love, and Isaiah Gilchrist - and even walk-on Myles Bryant - to push their way forward this fall.

Jimmy Lake has recruited and developed his defensive backs group to the point where they are in reload mode instead of in a constant struggle to rebuild. And it's been a long time since anyone has been able to say that about a Washington position group.

The national media is paying attention: it's time the rest of the country start looking north instead of south when talking about the great secondary units in college football.



Chris Fetters is the Managing Editor of Dawgman.com. Read more from Chris here. Follow Chris on Twitter: @Chris_Fetters


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