Washington Recruiting: Secondary and Kickers

In our final installment, Dawgman.com's Scott Eklund looks at the secondary and special teams focus this recruiting season. Washington loses three important players in the deep patrol and their punter and kicker. The health of their lone remaining kicker is also in question so it's imperative that Huskies address both units.

Losing starters Dashon Goldson and C.J. Wallace and nickel corner Matt Fountaine seriously depleted the depth of what is a thin unit to begin with.

The Huskies will be hitting the trail hard this winter and hope to bring in several candidates who can step in and play early.

CornerbacksRoy Lewis (Sr.); Jordan Murchison (Jr.); Desmond Davis (Jr.); Matt Mosley (Fr.)
Commits – Rainier Beach CB Vonzell McDowell (Seattle)
Targeted Prospects – Jordan CB Antwoine Baker (Los Angeles); Dominguez CB David Ross (Compton, Ca.); Overland CB Jared Campbell (Aurora, Co.); Covina CB Jamal James (Ca.); Crenshaw CB Steve Stepter (Los Angeles); El Camino CB Byron Davenport (Ca.); Verbum Dei CB Reggie Dunn (Los Angeles); Colony CB Omar Bolden (Ontario, Ca.)
Will take – At least three, but likely four

As you can see, the Huskies are hurting for bodies at cornerback. They return Lewis who did not live up to preseason expectations this year, but he still had a good year.

Lewis struggles at getting off blocks to support the run on the edge and he isn't a strong tackler. He makes good breaks on the ball in zone coverage, but too many times, he gave up long gainers when he was caught peeking into the backfield instead of covering his man. He needs to have a big senior season in order to garner attention from the NFL.

Murchison, Davis and Mosley are unkown quantities at this point.

Murchison struggled with a bum knee through camp and was redshirted to preserve a year of eligibility. When healthy, Murchison is a raw prospect who hasn't played much, but he has the physical skills to be a good one. He needs to work on his technique.

Davis is a walk-on, but he surprised some with his skills in the secondary. He runs pretty well and he's a good tackler. Hopefully, the Huskies won't have to see if he can start.

Mosley is the future at this position and, by all accounts, he's going to be very good. He's strong, has good size and he's got a smooth backpedal. The only negative is he's young and hasn't played and when you're opposite a player like Lewis, chances are good you are going to see a lot of balls come your way.

McDowell committing as early as he did was a nice bonus for the Huskies who need bodies and talent at the corner spot. He's super-quick and he runs pretty well. He's also much more physical than you would think a player of his dimensions would be.

Baker and Ross are the big names left on the list for the Dawgs.

Baker needs to get his SAT scores up, but there's no denying he's got the frame you want on a player in the secondary. He'll probably be a better cover-two corner because he lacks elite speed, but with his size he can be a physical corner for the Huskies, something defensive backs coach J.D. Williams loves to coach.

Ross also has good size and he's a highly sought-after prospect. He loves to play press coverage and he's a solid tackler as well. Washington is battling Oregon, Michigan, Colorado, Nebraska and Oregon State for his services, but coach Yarber has the Huskies in the game at this point.

Davenport is a guy that the Huskies have quietly been recruiting since he left UCLA to enroll at El Camino after his freshman year. You don't play cornerback as a freshman for the Bruins unless you're talented and Davenport is definitely that.

Campbell is the latest Colorado athlete to be offered by the Huskies and he's got the size and speed necessary to play early for the Dawgs. He'll remind you a lot of Mosley in his abilities and he is very close with two Husky commits – WR Devin Aguilar and ATH Alvin Logan – and wide receiver Drew Davis who Washington is also heavily after. Expect him to commit to the Dawgs on his visit in December or shortly thereafter.

Bolden and Dunn were the two fastest players at the Scout Combine held in Los Angeles – both ran 4.35 – and both project to the defensive side of the ball for the Huskies. Dunn just received his offer from the Dawgs, while Bolden was offered back in May. Both would be incredible gets for the Huskies and would add some needed speed into the secondary.

James is a player the Huskies had been after for a while and he wanted to commit earlier in the process. However, they are re-evaluating him as a wide receiver and have yet to set up an official visit with him. If they decide to re-affirm his offer, they'll probably get him, but at this point he does not have an offer as a defensive back.

Stepter, whose nickname is "little truck", is a player that is intriguing, but he's a smaller corner like McDowell and James, so it's unclear if he will get an offer or not. He plays a physical style of football and has taken on some very talented wideouts during his high school career. There's a good chance he gets an offer, but at this point he doesn't have one.

There are likely to be several other prospects that will come up the later in the process things get, but at this point it is unclear who those prospects are.

Safeties - Mesphin Forrester (Jr.); Jason Wells (Jr.); Darrin Harris (Sr.) Commits – O'Dea S Quinton Richardson (Seattle)
Targeted Prospects – Merced S Dion Bland (Ca.); Highline S Anthony Watkins (Renton, Wa.); Bellevue S Eric Block (Wa.)
Will take – Have room for three

Forrester and Wells were pleasant surprises this season.

Wells might be one of the biggest hitters in the conference already. He knocked himself out twice in his first season in the secondary, but he was solid as the quarterback of the deep patrol. Expect him to only get better.

Forrester lacks elite speed and he doesn't cover real well in space, but he's a good athlete who can tackle well. He also has a knack for picking up loose balls and making plays when the ball is in the air.

Harris suffered with a bad back this past fall and there are questions as to whether his football career may be over. When healthy, Harris adds a needed physical dimension to the secondary and the Huskies could use his smarts in nickel or dime situations.

Richardson's commitment was key this summer because of his versatility. He plays corner in high school, but he projects to either strong safety or as a weakside linebacker at the next level. He runs and tackles well and he's smart. He's a rock-solid 210 pounds right now and has the frame to be 220 after spending the summer working out with his new team.

Dion "Hit Stick" Bland is the guy the Huskies most covet this year at safety. He has good speed and he earned his nickname with tons of big hits as a junior and senior for Merced. The Huskies and California are battling for his services and he's likely headed to Berkeley if he can qualify, but right now that is up in the air. Williams coached him at some football camps while he was the coach of the Bears secondary, so he's got a shot, however it's a long one at this point.

Locally, Washington has two players in their own back yard that would fit the bill for the open secondary positions.

Block is a great leader with incredible football instincts. He isn't the best athlete on the field, but he just makes plays. He would be an excellent free safety prospect. He doesn't have an offer yet and it's debatable whether or not the Huskies are even interested at this point.

Watkins is a player that can play a myriad of positions, but he's best suited at safety. He's got good quickness and a nice burst. He's also a very instinctual player. He will commit to the Huskies as soon as he's offered. Will he get offered? That's the 64 million dollar question.

Also note that Nate Williams and Alvin Logan could easily move to this position if they get some players they like better at running back and wide receiver. Logan has the speed necessary to be a big-time free safety and Williams would be an excellent rover/strong safety with his hitting and tackling abilities.

Kickers and Punters – K Ryan Perkins (So.)
CommitsNotre Dame K Erik Folk (Sherman Oaks, Ca.)
Targeted Prospects – Grossmont K/PJared Ballman (El Cajon, Ca.)
Will take - Likely a punter and a kicker

The kicking game rarely excites and it can be one of the most the most frustrating units if it stinks. When you need points late in the game a great placekicker is needed and when you want to win the field-position battle, you had better have a solid punter.

The Huskies lose one of the better punters in the country in Sean Douglas and, with Michael Braunstein leaving as well, the Huskies were in the market for players at both positions.

Perkins blew out his knee during the spring game and he's had a setback in his rehab, needing another surgery this fall. It's unclear if he will be ready to go this spring so the Huskies have been on the hunt for some players to bring in for this class.

Folk is the brother of Nick Folk, who both kicks and punts for the Arizona Wildcats, but they like him as a kicker at this point. He's got a strong leg and his mechanics are sound. If Mike Stoops offers, there might be a chance that Folk could re-open his commitment, but at this point Folk has said he won't be taking any other visits that his Washington official.

Ballman is one of the few JC players the Huskies are actively pursuing. He has a very strong leg and he can also be a kickoff specialist. He's never had a kickoff returned in his career – and that includes high school. He doesn't have an offer yet, but if he trips to Washington, which will be determined in the very near future, he will get an offer and is likely to commit on the spot.

Washington has room for a full class in 2007 – 25 players – and if they get some junior college players and maybe one or two early enrollment high school players (Davis is at least one) they could take as many as 30 players.

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