Throw at your own risk

Back in the spring, the question was asked to co-defensive coordinator, Phil Snow. "What is the recipe for a dominating defense?" Snow didn't hesitate. "It all starts with your cornerbacks," he said. In senior Roc Alexander and fourth-year junior Derrick Johnson, coach Snow has the pieces in place.

Both speedy corners are at full health at the same time for the first time since arriving together in 2000, making up what figures to be the strength of the defense in 2003.

Alexander is coming off a forgettable junior season in which he played in only six games before missing the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.

Johnson, meanwhile, is fresh off a career-year. He recorded 56 tackles and had five interceptions in 2002, doing so after missing all of 2001 with a broken foot.

With their injuries behind them, the pair has shifted their attention to what lies ahead. Both say this fall camp has been like no other they've been a part of since they became Huskies. The intensity has risen. The focus has narrowed. The attention to detail is at an all-time high.

There's no messing around.

Alexander feels that all the hard work is going to pay off in the win-column this year.

"Definitely it will help us," said the senior from Colorado. "You've got to be tough to play here. People think we are soft, but we've got to bring it back. That's why we need that tough love back in here."

Johnson agrees.

"You have to be accountable for your team and be tough enough or you can't wear the purple and gold," he said.

While the secondary came on late last season, partly to the emergence of a 5-foot-8 fireplug named Nate Robinson, the addition of a veteran coach like Snow has the veteran corners excited. Robinson has since left the team to concentrate on a basketball career, so Alexander and Johnson know they're going to have to step it up to fill the void.

That isn't to say they are the only two corners who will see the field. Senior Chris Massey and junior Sam Cunningham provide depth, while emerging youngsters Matt Fountaine, who redshirted last season, and freshman Dre Simpson could also get plenty of time.

Since joining the UW in the spring from UCLA, Snow has gotten down to the basics. In a sense, he's started from scratch and made his guys relearn each nuance of the position much like another UCLA coach once did - legend has it that John Wooden once started a practice by teaching his team how to tie their shoes properly.

"He's pretty much changed everything - our stance, our bump and run," said Alexander. "Everything is completely different.

"But it's also better because we've been making more plays out here. We are playing better with his technique I think."

Johnson says Snow has hammered home two points of emphasis more than any other.

"Eyes and body mechanics," said Johnson, referring to what he's been taught most since Snow's arrival. "If you have bad eyes or body mechanics you are going to put yourself in bad positions. If you do that you give up big plays, and that's what we did a lot last year."

With the Ohio State game looming, now just 12 days away, it's more important with each day that passes that the secondary is on the same page.

Under coach Snow, Alexander says, that's a give in.

"Everyone is buying into his techniques and everything he says," said the senior.

And there will be no better time to show that the hard work has paid off than in Columbus, Ohio, the grandest of stages.

"It's super big,"said Johnson of the season-opener. "I think we have a really good team and we've really bonded and gelled together. We are ready, and we feel like we can take on anybody if we continue to work hard and believe in each other like we do." Top Stories