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Spring Position Preview - Defensive Back 

Let's state the obvious right from the top: it's going to be difficult for Washington to replace 122 career starts. With Kevin King (42), Budda Baker (41) and Sidney Jones (39) gone, UW's Defensive Backs Coach Jimmy Lake has his work cut out for him. 

When you look at the starts from the defensive backs remaining on Washington's roster heading into this spring, the total number doesn't come close to matching even one of the pro departures. 

But what Lake doesn't have in returning starters, he does have in players that have played. Nine, in fact, that have double-digit games played so far in their Washington careers. And it's going to be that base of nine, coupled with a fantastic redshirt freshman class, that will provide the nucleus for UW's secondary for years to come. 

And that's why this spring is so crucial. Yes, they have players with some relative experience, but Lake needs to get some of them ready to start. He has four returning players with starting experience, but all four of them are safeties. That means those tasked with replacing King and Jones will be doing so pretty much from scratch.

Of the four cornerback candidates that have double-digit games played, one just moved to the secondary (Jomon Dotson), and one is a walk-on (Myles Bryant). Only Jordan Miller, Austin Joyner and Brandon Lewis are returning corners that have the kind of experience Lake can build on. 

But then there's the raw talent...that talent! Lake has reloaded the last couple years, which is why the sophomore and redshirt freshman classes look so good. 

Defensive Backs (by year)

Trevor Walker (5-11, 188, Sr.)

Ezekiel Turner (6-2, 210, Sr.)

JoJo McIntosh (6-1, 215, Jr.)

Jordan Miller (6-1, 183, Jr.)

Jomon Dotson (5-10, 183, Jr.)

Brandon Lewis (5-11, 186, Jr.)

Mason Stone (6-0, 179, Jr.)*

Sean Vergara (6-2, 188, Jr.)*

Ian Biddle (6-0, 184, Jr.)*

Austin Joyner (5-10, 187, So.)

Taylor Rapp (6-0, 207, So.)

Myles Bryant (5-8, 178, So.)*

Byron Murphy (5-11, 177, RFr.)

Isaiah Gilchrist (5-10, 201, RFr.)

Kentrell Love (6-1, 182, RFr.)

Zach Brown (5-10, 184, Fr.)*

Projected Spring Depth Chart

Cornerback

Austin Joyner (5-10, 187, So.) OR

Byron Murphy (5-11, 177, RFr.)

Brandon Lewis (5-11, 186, Jr.)

Jomon Dotson (5-10, 183, Jr.)

Myles Bryant (5-8, 178, So.)*

Cornerback

Jordan Miller (6-1, 183, Jr.)

Isaiah Gilchrist (5-10, 201, RFr.) OR

Kentrell Love (6-1, 182, RFr.)

Ian Biddle (6-0, 184, Jr.)*

Safety

Taylor Rapp (6-0, 207, So.)

Trevor Walker (5-11, 188, Sr.)

Sean Vergara (6-2, 188, Jr.)*

Safety

Jojo McIntosh (6-1, 215, Jr.)

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

Mason Stone (6-0, 179, Jr.)*

Zach Brown (5-10, 184, Fr.)*

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Trevor Walker (5-11, 188, Sr.)

A valued contributor as a safety, the Texas native has played in 27 games so far in his UW career, starting three times. What bodes well for a strong senior season is the fact that he played in 13 games last year after redshirting in 2015. That means he's back to 100 percent health and ready to go for more. Walker needs to get his work in, but health will always be his primary concern. 

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

Turner has been an enforcer at strong safety from the first day he stepped foot on the east field, and cemented that reputation in 2016 where he played in 13 games and started one. Also had an interception in the Pac-12 title game, so he can get things done in space too. Another valuable backup that can step in and start in a moment's notice, like Walker. 

Jojo McIntosh (6-1, 215, Jr.)

Another thumper, McIntosh is the most experienced returning defensive back, having started 13 games in his UW career. While Baker was getting all the accolades next to him, McIntosh was just putting in his work, tying for third on the team in total tackles with 67. McIntosh needs to be the tone-setter this spring, making sure the younger players are doing everything they can to make their mark. 

Jordan Miller (6-1, 183, Jr.)

There was a line of thought Miller could have been a starter last year, his potential was that strong. When you add a sub-4.4 40 and a 41-inch vertical jump, there's no question Miller is now the heir apparent to King and Jones. This spring needs to be his time to establish himself with authority, and he will be given every opportunity to do so. 

Jomon Dotson (5-10, 183, Jr.)

This move was a bit out of the blue, but Lake is more than happy to bring in an athlete of Dotson's quality - he just led the team with a 4.38 40 in the recent UW Combine Day. Maybe his days at running back were numbered, but if the junior can pick up the defensive playbook and come out in April firing on all cylinders, he could add a lot of value as possibly a slot defender, nickel, etc...

Brandon Lewis (5-11, 186, Jr.)

Of the returning cornerbacks, Lewis is the one that has played in the most games (16) outside of Jordan Miller. With both starting cornerback spots available to be taken, Lewis has as good a chance as anyone to make it his own, especially if your basis for that opinion is rooted in experience. But he will have a lot of young bucks chasing his tail, so this spring is crucial for Lewis to show he's ready to take his turns and have a breakthrough 2016 season.  

Mason Stone (6-0, 179, Jr.)*

Stone showed up in time for spring ball last season, so expect that extra spring to pay off dividends this April. He played in four games last year, including the Pac-12 Championship game. There's little doubt Stone should be a valuable service team member this season.  

Sean Vergara (6-2, 188, Jr.)*

Vergara's story is a cool one. He joined the Huskies in 2015 via walk-on tryouts and impressed the coaches enough that he played in three games last year. With his length and athleticism (tied for third in the 3-cone test with Myles Bryant at the latest UW Combine Day), Vergara will be counted on again to help get his teammates ready for battle this fall. 

Ian Biddle (6-0, 184, Jr.)*

Unlike Vergara, Biddle has not broken through with any game action so far in his UW career, even though he was picked from the same 2015 walk-on tryouts. As a former All-KingCo cornerback, Biddle certainly has what it takes to provide service on the Huskies' scout team. 

Austin Joyner (5-10, 187, So.)

Joyner has earned much of his value as a UW player to date on special teams, but that should change this spring. He's always been a phenomenal athlete, but he didn't participate in this spring's Combine Day. There could be a million reasons why, but let's assume he's 100 percent healthy and ready to go.  What also has never been in question is his competitiveness, and he will be battling full-tilt for one of those coveted cornerback spots. Regardless of what his status is coming out of spring ball, Joyner should definitely be in the two-deeps and will continue to be a special teams demon. 

Taylor Rapp (6-0, 207, So.)

Rapp earned his rep as the next great UW safety when he put on a magical performance in the Pac-12 Championshp game. He completely flipped the script on Colorado, scoring a pick-six on the first play of the second half and came up with one more interception en route to game MVP honors. And oh, by the way, Rapp was named the 2016 Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year and a Freshman First-Team All-American. Not too shabby for a relatively lightly recruited kid from Bellingham. Expect the combination of Rapp and Jojo McIntosh to be the starting safety fixture this spring, with Trevor Walker and Zeke Turner backing them up. 

Myles Bryant (5-8, 178, So.)*

You may not have noticed him that much out there, but walk-on Myles Bryant played in 11 games last season. Not too bad for a true freshman no one expected anything from. It's from that platform Bryant should be able to take his next steps this spring. There are a lot of bodies to go through on Washington's current cornerback depth, but Bryant defied expectations last year. Who is going to doubt him now? 

Byron Murphy (5-11, 177, RFr.)

The supreme athlete from Arizona would have likely played as a true freshman at most other schools, but because of the glut of talent at the top of Washington's defensive back depth chart, UW was able to lock him up in the weight room. Now seven pounds heavier, Murphy looks ready-made to compete for the starting cornerback spot vacated by Sidney Jones. Also expect to see Murphy get some looks as a return specialist. Spring could signal Murphy's arrival to Montlake as a player to be reckoned with.  

Isaiah Gilchrist (5-10, 201, RFr.)

Competing last year as a redshirt freshman at cornerback, there's been speculation Gilchrist could see time at safety this spring. It wouldn't be a strange move at all, considering the former Bellevue star has been shadowing the path taken by another Wolverine legend, Budda Baker. Could Gilchrist be the next Budda? Who knows, but we'll find out this spring what Lake has in mind for Gilchrist, and whether or not a move to safety is in the cards. One thing to consider: Washington loses two safeties to graduation next year, the only two defensive backs Lake loses after 2016. 

Kentrell Love (6-1, 182, RFr.)

While Murphy makes sense at the spot formerly occupied by Sidney Jones, the longer-levered Love should be right in the mix for that other cornerback position that Kevin King had on lock-down. Not as gifted athletically as Murphy or Gilchrist, you can't teach length, and Love starred at a monster program - Corona Centennial. His pedigree is unquestioned. But of the three, will Love be the one that puts his stamp on things? Or will he struggle? There's a real crush of bodies separating Love from the top, and the move of Jomon Dotson to defensive back didn't add any clarity to the situation.  

Zach Brown (5-10, 184, Fr.)*

Zach, who prepped at Seattle's Cleveland High, graduated last spring but concentrated on training in preparation for joining UW this spring as a walk-on. 

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Where does the defensive back group stand heading into spring?

This group is as loaded with talent as any on the field for Washington, but there are still a ton of questions that have to be answered - and spring may not give fans all the answers they were hoping for. 

Who is going to replace Budda Baker? Who is going to be the next great cornerback tandem now that King and Jones are gone? Are the young guns going to do the damage in April everyone expects after being caged up like lions as they got bigger, stronger and faster in anticipation for the 2017 season? 

The first one should be the easiest to figure out by far. Based on how they did last year, Jojo McIntosh and Taylor Rapp should be penciled in on Jimmy Lake's 'seating' chart as the number one safeties, backed up by Ezekiel Turner and Trevor Walker, the two safeties of this defensive back group. 

But will a player like Isaiah Gilchrist get moved to safety to create even more balance and competition at those positions? 

At cornerback, it's a huge, lovely mess - but will be a fun one to watch as Lake pulls apart the wreckage on a daily basis to see who is making the biggest strides and who is taking advantage of their turns. 

I'm inclined to believe Jordan Miller will head one of the cornerback spots going into spring. He should be at the top of anyone's list. But even that isn't guaranteed, because no returning cornerback has any starts as a Husky. None. 

Will Austin Joyner wrest control of one of the cornerback spots? He appears poised to do so, as long as his health allows him. Brandon Lewis has always been waiting, biding his time. 

And who is not going to take their eyes off of the redshirt freshmen? 

So many storylines and narratives yet to be written with this secondary group, so many questions in search of solutions. This collection of players doesn't have the starts under their belt that they did a year ago, but they might be even more talented taken as a whole. It might take them a minute to get things together, but once they do expect Lake's lot to impress. 

This group of defensive backs watched the NFL Combine, they know what they are capable of and what can happen if they do things the right way. Baker, King and Jones showed them the way. Now it's their turn to shine. 

The competition should be fierce.

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