Eriks adds needed depth at safety

When Washington secured an early verbal from O'Dea High School's Ty Eriks, Rick Neuheisel knew that he had just locked up the best in-state running back available. Eriks was big, fast, strong, and hadn't even played tailback yet because his team needed him to be a bruising fullback that opened holes as well as darted through them. At Washington Neuheisel planned on getting him a look at the tailback spot so he could use his speed.

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Well, Neuheisel still counts Eriks in his stable of young studs, but he's now hanging with a different crowd.

At 6-2 218 pounds and clocking a 4.50 40-time, Ty is now a bruising strong safety this spring.

"He's learning very fast, as you would expect because he's such a good student. He's eager, and has the know-how and motivation to do well. Good things happen with that, and he'll grow into the position," said Neuheisel of Eriks' work after five practices in April.

"He's such a good athlete that you want to find a spot for him. We'll continue to work with him until we find a perfect spot."

It was early in the winter when the coaches first approached the former tailback about a possible position switch. Still, they left it up to Eriks as to whether or not he would like to try defense.

"They asked me to make the decision, so I felt like I had a say," said Eriks after practice earlier in the week. "I thought about it and decided that it would be a good thing for me and the team. I said I would try it out in the spring and so far it's gone very well. I really like it and I'm having a lot of fun."

With his combination of athleticism and huge frame, the NFL could be a distinct possibility in four years. Eriks took that into consideration as he was contemplating no longer running the football. "I took a big mental check at what opportunities I might have at the next level before I moved. That weighed into it."

The early reviews are in and they are favorable.

"I love it. It's totally different but I really like what I'm doing now. It's going really well and I'm starting to get into it," said Eriks.

Tuesday was perhaps his best day this spring as a safety as he had two big hits and stripped a ball carrier of the football in another drill.

Delivering the shots is something new to Ty, and it's hard for him to contain his enthusiasm for that role reversal. "I love it! I like it a LOT better," he said while unsuccessfully suppressing a laugh. "You really get into it and, when you don't have to protect the football, you can really lay into someone. I've had a few big hits (smile). I think it will just pick up from here."

Right now he's just trying to learn the position and get to know secondary coach Bobby Hauck's techniques. "We're not talking much about that. I'm just focusing on learning the position. Hopefully, a shot will open up for me," said Eriks.

"It's all new to me. I've never played safety before. I've played outside linebacker a little bit but that's about it."

Eriks is down about five pounds from when he was a running back, but that is as much weight as he will lose. He'll be the biggest safety in UW history if he remains in the secondary. "I feel like I can really move at this weight. I'm about right where I want to be," said Eriks, who clocked a 4.50 40, making him the second fastest safety behind only James Sims' incredible 4.42 time.

Safety is a fairly technical position because of the knowledge required of all the different coverages and help responsibilities, but Eriks also finds that he can use his athleticism to help in those areas. "You have to know your assignments but you can really mix in your athletic ability to make things happen back there."

The decision to redshirt last season now appears to have been the perfect scenario for Eriks. Now he'll get four years at a new position, instead of three. "I was a little bit upset to begin with, but now I'm really glad that I did (redshirt). I used that year to work in the weight room, gain speed, and all those things that College football is about. I got an extra year to get into that."

Now Eriks finds himself successfully adjusting to hanging out with his new crowd – the defense. "I still chill with the offensive guys, too. This team is very close knit, and that is a big reason why I chose to come here. I hang out more with the defensive players more than I used to, but we're all tight."

With Greg Carothers out for the entire spring, now is the time to develop depth in the secondary. Washington will hope that these 15 spring practices will allow Eriks enough time to get his feet more than wet and challenge for playing time when August rolls around. Top Stories