Position Breakdown: Defensive Backs

In the seventh-installment of our continuing series on the future of Husky football, we take a look at the secondary and how they have progressed over the past year. They finally have a lot of bodies to work with, but are they going to be better than they've been the past few years?

Returning: CB Byron Davenport (Rs. Sr.); CB Jordan Murchison (Rs. Sr.); CB Desmond Davis (Rs. Sr.)*; S Jason Wells (Rs. Sr.); S Mesphin Forrester (Rs. Sr.); S Darin Harris (Rs. Sr.); CB Matt Mosley (Rs. So.); S Jay Angotti (Rs. So.)*; CB Vonzell McDowell (So.); S Nate Williams (So.); S Victor Aiyewa (So.); CB Marquis Persley (Rs. Fr.); S Quinton Richardson (Rs. Fr.)
2008 Recruiting Class: CB Justin Glenn; CB John Tate; CB Anthony Gobern; S Vince Taylor; S Johri Fogerson; S Greg Walker
Still on the board: E.J. Woods; Adam Long
* denotes walk-on

Last year this was one of the biggest areas of concern as the team began fall practices and, heading into the 2008 season, it will again be a big question mark.

The one difference? Experience.

Last year the Huskies got lots of snaps for young players who they will be counting on to be big contributors as they head into the season and this year, unlike last spring, defensive backs coach J.D. Williams will have plenty of talented bodies to work with during spring camp.

Washington will enter spring drills with six players that have starts under their belt.

Davenport, Wells, Forrester, Harris, Mosley and McDowell all started at different times during the season.

When he de-committed from Washington State and committed to the Huskies, it appeared to be a huge coup for the Dawgs. They were getting a player with Pac 10 experience at UCLA who was hungry to prove those who doubted his abilities wrong.

The problem was the Davenport had a bum hamstring that ended up costing him playing time during fall camp and for the first four or five games of the season.

When he was healthy, Davenport showed solid coverage abilities and better than expected tackling in run support.

He struggled with zone coverage and seemed uncomfortable in some of Washington's coverage schemes, but he battled and played well down the stretch.

Mosley and McDowell both saw time opposite the departed Roy Lewis because of Davenport's health issues and both held up relatively well considering their lack of experience.

McDowell actually started the first three games of the season, but lost confidence as team's picked on him and he was eventually pulled and played in the nickel and dime packages for the rest of the season.

His quickness and his ability to read routes are his biggest assets. He breaks quickly on the ball and he can make plays on the ball when it's in the air.

McDowell was a huge liability against the run though and in the quick hitch routes that teams ran to his side where he had to come up and make a tackle. He needs to gain weight and muscle and continue to gain confidence as he gets more experience.

Mosley subbed for McDowell following the third game and did well early on, but eventually teams found him and exposed his lack of experience. He really struggled to maintain outside leverage on routes, allowing quick completions to the outside when he should have been forcing receivers back inside where he had help.

Secondaries that are coached by Williams take pride in being physical with receivers, re-directing them off their routes, but Mosley still hasn't mastered that technique and that will be his biggest challenge during the offseason.

Wells is Washington's intimidator in the deep patrol, but he blew out his knee in the USC game and the Husky secondary really missed him and his leadership.

When healthy, Wells is a big-hitter who tackles very well while getting the defensive backs lined up correctly. He struggles in coverage, but he's gotten better in this area and he reads the quarterback's eyes well.

Forrester is a safety in a cornerback's body.

He runs well and had an impressive runback for a touchdown versus USC on an interception, but he really struggles in coverage because he has stiff hips and doesn't break well on the ball. He was also exposed in run-support, showing how much the Huskies miss a sure-tackler like C.J. Wallace who is making a name for himself on the Seattle Seahawks' roster.

Harris filled in admirably for Wells after he went down, but it was pretty obvious he was a step down from what Wells brought to the team. His lack of experience really hurt the Huskies late in the season, but with a year of playing under his belt, the hope is he's learned from his mistakes and can either challenge for time or, at the very least, add quality depth to the position.

Murchison is a player the coaches hope will be able to keep his nose clean so they can work him further into the rotation. An off-field incident during the summer kept him from contributing early last year, but he was worked into the rotation and he showed well in his limited snaps.

He's very quick, he makes plays on the ball and he tackles well. He just lacks experience.

Murchison will battle with Davenport, Mosley, McDowell and Persley for playing time and he's got a very good chance of stepping into that starter's role at some point.

Persley is a player the coaches are very excited about.

He runs well and is smooth in and out of his backpedal and the coaches love his abilities when the ball is in the air. The goal was to get Persley into the weight room to get stronger and to be a better tackler. Now he gets his chance to show what skills he has and how he can help in the secondary.

Nate Williams was a pleasant surprise once fall camp began.

The coaches loved his abilities as a safety and he proved to have excellent football instincts and he was a sure-tackler. Williams has a very good chance of pushing Forrester for playing time at strong safety and he can also play nickel corner if the coaches want to put him against a bigger receiver.

He's also excellent on the coverage units although he was knocked out by USC LB Rey Maualuga after he made the freshman mistake of watching the ball instead of the returner.

The Huskies got two more good ones for the safety position in 2007 when Aiyewa and Richardson showed up and were instant hits, literally.

Aiyewa has played very little football, only playing his final two years of high school, but he's a physical specimen with outstanding instincts and he got lots of time on the coverage and return units for during his freshman season.

He runs well and when he hits a ballcarrier they usually go backwards. He needs to wrap up better though and he needs to continue to develop his technique as it was still very, very raw even toward the end of the season.

Aiyewa has the ability to be a very good safety for the Huskies and there's even a chance that, with his size (6-2, 225) he could end up moving up to linebacker to add speed and big-play ability to that unit as well.

Richardson was the one safety prospect the Huskies brought in that didn't see any time as a freshman.

That doesn't mean he isn't going to be a very good player down the road, but the coaches wanted to give him a year of watching and learning before they threw him to the wolves and now they're ready to unleash him on the rest of the Pac 10.

Richardson is another physical specimen with an impressive frame already (6-1, 215) and he showed good speed and ball-skills during camp as well.

Richardson will back up Wells and he could push for time if Wells isn't ready to go during spring ball.

Angotti and Davis both were valuable contributors on the coverage units this past season, but neither has seen much, if any time in the secondary.

Both play their roles well and add depth to the the unit.

Because of the lack of numbers in the secondary the past few years, the Huskies have continued to go hard after players in the secondary.

They've already gotten commitments from six players (three safeties, three corners) and two more could end up being brought into the fold.

Glenn was the best coverage guy in the state this year and he was a must get for Williams as he continues to try and upgrade the talent level in the secondary.

He's got a good frame and a nose for the ball. He runs well and he could even end up moving to free safety if he gets bigger.

Tate is widely considered one of the best athletes on the Edison (Fresno, Ca.) roster, a program filled with very talented players.

He's an excellent running back, but his future is at corner where he can use his quickness and playmaking abilities to their maximum effectiveness.

Gobern will arrive on campus and be one of the fastest players on the field when he arrives. He posted a legit 4.4 forty time during the spring and his film shows a player who doesn't shy away from contact.

The early offer to Taylor was a bit of a surprise, only because it was unclear what position he projected to at the next level, but the Husky coaching staff obviously fell in love with his big frame (6-3, 200) and his toughness.

Taylor is a big-hitter on defense and he loves to play the game, but there is a slight chance he could end up at receiver if the need arises.

Fogerson was the 3A Washington State Player of the Year, posting over 2,000 yards and 35 touchdowns on the ground while wracking up over 60 tackles and four interceptions on defense and he's expected to end up as a hard-hitting safety in the Husky secondary next fall.

He runs well, has big-play abilities and he loves to hit.

Walker is still somewhat of an unknown quantity, but there's no denying his football skills. He runs well and posted over 80 tackles on defense for St. Bernard High School in Playa Del Rey, Ca.

He could end up playing outside linebacker for the Huskies in the future, but early on he will get a look at strong safety with his sure-tackling as well as his instincts in run-support.

Previous position breakdowns:

Position Breakdown: Quarterback
Position Breakdown: Tailbacks and Fullbacks
Position Breakdown: Receivers and Tight Ends
Position Breakdown: Offensive Line
Position Breakdown: Defensive Line
Position Breakdown: Linebackers
Position Breakdown: Special Teams

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