Competition fuels cornerbacks' fire

SEATTLE - Quinton Richardson's newest tatoo is a big flame that stretches down the length of his right arm down to his wrist. It's not quite fully defined yet; a perfect metaphor for the redshirt freshman's transition from safety to cornerback in Ed Donatell's new defensive philosophy. Will the redshirt frosh put the heat on opposing receivers?

Or will he continue in a long line of recent corners at UW to get burned?

Just like Dashon Goldson and C.J. Wallace mentored Mesphin Forrester, the fifth-year senior is helping freshmen like Richardson along. The only problem is that Forrester is trying to compete for a starting spot.

"On the field I have to do my job," Forrester said this week, the opening week of fall camp for the Huskies. "When it comes to teaching the freshmen, I try to do that off the field."

"I had to reboot and start from scratch," added Richardson, who started his UW career at safety. "It was a tough transition, but it was a good thing. I know the fundamentals of both."

Right now Forrester and Richardson are the corners pencilled in to start against Oregon August 30th, unless one of the other experienced corners has something to say about it. And for the first time in years, there is enough depth to creat the kind of competition coaches look for in the three weeks before their season starts.

"They need camp, and I'm glad we have these couple of weeks," new UW Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell said Thursday. "We told them that there was going to be a lot of competition and the lineup is fluid. They are going to battle and we're going to keep score and play the guys that do best at camp."

"We're trying to find the right guys at that position," added Head Coach Tyrone Willingham. "So far Mesphin and Quinton are heading that group, but there's still room for a Vonzell (McDowell), a (Matt) Mosley (Byron) Davenport - provided they are taking care of their responsibilities."

"It makes me feel good," Richardson said about his rapid ascension up the depth chart at corner. "It's telling me my hard work hasn't been for nothing. It means I've gotten somewhere. If I keep working, maybe I can make All Pac-10 freshman team or maybe freshman All-America. It's given me more courage to keep movin'."

For his part, Davenport is doing what he can. But by going home over the summer to work with his old coaches at Long Beach Poly instead of staying and working with his teammates, the senior transfer from UCLA took a calculated risk he hopes pays off in this fall's competition.

"I was well aware of the situation I was getting myself into," Davenport admitted. "When I'm 60 years old, I want to believe I did everything in my power my senior year to make progress and get to the league. I had to do everything in my power to be on point."

By going home, he was able to get teaching that couldn't take place at Washington due to NCAA summer restrictions for coaches. "I could have stayed here, but I don't think my technical stuff would have been on point," he said. "I went back to my roots. It was really important to me. I needed to refresh my mind and work on fundamentals. I needed to sharpen my tools."

Davenport was told by the coaches that as long as he came back to Seattle in shape and ready to go, he'd be right in the mix. And that is exactly what has happened. "I passed my conditioning test," said Davenport.

Now what matters is how quickly the corner assimilate what Donatell is teaching them. And from the looks of things, it's night and day from the teaching that produced the worst UW pass defense in school history.

"We have a wonderful combination of coaches for our secondary," Willingham said of Donatell and secondary coach J.D. Williams. "We've got a package to help our kids grow into their full potential."

"We're going to have a style that we play that is aggressive," Donatell said. "We take a lot of pride in reducing big plays. If we're a finished product, we'll be up there challenging, making them (receivers) work for everything."

"We've added a lot from last year, but cover 3 is still cover 3," Forrester added. "It's up to the veterans to grab hold of it really fast."

Willingham is hopeful Davenport is one of those experienced players that will pick things up quickly and make the most of his final opportunity. "We recognize the first year for a transfer takes a while for them to get back in the mix of things," he said. "We saw some of that with Marcel Reece. We thought he was more successful his second year than his first. We're hoping Byron is the same. Now he's accustomed to being here and what we're doing, and he can be a better player."

Davenport feels equal to the challenge, especially with Donatell taking the lead. "He (Donatell) is really professional," said Davenport. "He really knows what he's doing. He's confident in what he's teaching. He's set a plan. He said that if you follow these things, the sky is the limit. Coach (Kent) Baer was more like, 'This is what it is and that's that'. Coach Donatell is like, 'We're doing this because of this'. He's really good that way.

"We're all trying to grasp it. It's different than what we're used to, and we're still adjusting. His physical style of play is great. It's going to help me out."

"With two bigs guys on the edge, it's harder for receivers to run their routes," added Forrester. "Fans will definitely notice."

"They want to beef up the secondary, which is fine," countered Davenport. "We'll see how that turns out. I'm supremely confident in my abilities and it's an open competition. It's all about whoever makes the most plays. And we need guys that can make plays."

Let the competition resume.

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