The State Of The Secondary

Last year, heading into spring practice, Husky secondary coach J.D. Williams had only a handful of candidates available to him and walk-ons were a regular sight in the two-deeps. However, things have changed and he's got plenty of bodies to rotate in and out of the lineup, hoping to find the best four players and making sure they know what they are supposed to do.

Leading things off, Williams has the luxury of returning four corners with Pac 10 experience.

At the head of the class is senior Byron Davenport, a player who at this time last year was finishing up course-work at El Camino Junior College. The Huskies had hoped the former UCLA Bruin would solidify the corner spot opposite Roy Lewis. However, injuries befell the talented defensive back and he never lived up to the expectations of the coaches or himself.

"Byron is a real solid corner and I'm just disappointed no one ever really got to see it last year," Williams said. "He was injured three times last year and I'm not sure anybody really knew that.

"He pulled his hamstring real early in (fall) camp and he missed a lot of reps. Then we eased him in against Boise State and he pulled the other one, so he missed the next five games. Then against Arizona, he pulled it during the week before the game, but he wanted to play so badly that he didn't tell us and when he had a bad game against them, I pulled him out and that's when he told me about it."

Davenport still managed to finish with 50 tackles, one interception and nine passes broken up.

"He's so quick and he's really aggressive," Williams noted. "That's what really hurt him last year, because his instincts are to be real aggressive and get after guys, but his injuries just didn't let him do that.

"He's going to be a guy we really rely on this year so it's great to have him in spring and to work with him as he gets even more accustomed to our defense and what we're looking for."

On the other side, it will be a battle royal between five players who all have varying skills and experience and that's just the way Williams likes it.

"Obviously they are all going to be battling for the starting spot, but they're all going to be playing," Williams said. "We loved what Quinton Richardson did last year in camp and then throughout the season in practice. I love what he brings to the table with his size and he's a lot faster than we gave him credit for before he got here.

"I really think he will be a lot like Nnamdi Asomugha who I had at Cal. I mean, he's so physical and so strong and he's a great athlete. I'm really excited by his potential.

"Then you have a kid like Matt Mosley, who was our ‘X' factor last year because he hadn't been practicing much as a DB until last fall. Then he goes out there and performs really well and just shows us how much he wants it.

"He also had a great winter. He's bigger and he's a lot stronger and I think he's pretty much ‘getting it' as far as what his assignments are and what we are looking for in our sets and what his responsibilities are."

The three other players who will get a chance to make a name for themselves are sophomore Vonzell McDowell Jr., redshirt freshman Marquis Persley and senior Jordan Murchison.

"Vonzell was solid last year early on and I think against Syracuse he really showed that he had the skills to be a solid corner," Williams said. "Then against Boise State, he performed well. He got beat on a post, but he came back and made some nice plays and he had that pick at the goal line so, he has the skills.

"Then he got beat by Ohio State. I don't think it was so much he couldn't do what he needed to do, it was just his confidence took a big hit. We were going up against one of the top teams in the country and that's a lot for a young guy to handle so early and I think he lost a little confidence. I think he's going to be pretty good this year and really come back strong.

"Marquis is another big corner and we like his competitiveness. This spring will be a chance for him to show us what he has to offer. He's strong and he's pretty angular so we can do some different things with him.

"Jordan is a tough player and loves to compete. He's going to have chances to make plays and he's got the skills to be solid back there in coverage."

When his thoughts turned to the safety position, Williams again had to address the depth that was created by injuries as young players were thrust into playing early and often in 2007.

"Mesphin Forrester is my guy back there," Williams said. "He's smart and he's a good player, but he struggled with a bunch of injuries last year.

"He's tough though because he did his best to play through them and we needed his leadership back there. He'll be good for us this year."

Backing up Forrester, is one of Washington's top freshman from last year, Nate Williams.

"Nate had to go in early on and we loved what he did versus Syracuse," Williams said. "He showed he could be around the ball and make plays when he had the chance.

"He struggled some against some of the slot guys that we played against, but that was more due to his inexperience than him physically not being able to do things. He's real quick and he's a great tackler. He will challenge for playing time all year and with Jason Wells out right now, he'll have a chance to get a lot of reps so we can see how far he's come along."

Williams usually likes to split the field into two-halves, using his safeties over the top on either side. However, he admitted that two of his players are probably better playing a true strong safety role.

"Darin Harris is probably better closer to the line," Williams said. "He was forced to play a lot last year because of Jason getting injured so early and he hadn't played in almost two years so he had some rust to shake off.

"He'll be good back there. We were really happy with his progress this winter."

Lastly, Williams noted that sophomore S Victory Aiyewa is close to breaking through.

"Victor, if he can pick things up just a little more so he isn't thinking so much, he's going to hurt some people," Williams said. "I mean, the kid is just a physical player and he loves to hit and he's very intense.

"He kind of gives our secondary that ‘enforcer' factor and when he gets the chance to light a guy up, he does it and it's just violent when it happens."

Williams also took the time to talk about some of the players he has coming in this fall that will immediately add depth and push the players who are already on campus.

"I've got the chance to have some real speed guys back there this year," Williams said. "Anthony Gobern can fly and Adam Long is just flat out fast. He could be the fastest guy on the west coast this year. He's going to be the California 100 meter champion.

"Then Justin Glenn will be a great corner for us. He's strong and he's faster than people give him credit for.

"I've also got some good safeties coming in too, so I've got the bodies, now it's up to me to get them coached up and up to them to learn the defense and what they are supposed to do. The guys who are here now had better make their moves, because they have guys coming in to compete and they had better be ready because it's going to be real competitive and that will only make us all better." Top Stories