Spring Preview: Secondary

Improvement is expected in the secondary this fall with experience returning at all four positions. This entry in our spring preview series details what to look for during the spring as Jeff Mills and Demetrice Martin run their charges through their paces and also addresses the addition of Sean Parker and what to expect out of the defensive backs as a whole…

The Players: Sr. Nate Williams (S); So. Desmond Trufant (CB); So. Adam Long (CB); So. Nate Fellner (S); So. Justin Glenn (S/CB); Sr. Vonzell McDowell (CB); Sr. Victor Aiyewa (S); Jr. Quinton Richardson (CB); So. Greg Walker (S); RS Fr. Will Shamburger (S); So. Anthony Boyles (CB); Jr. Marquis Persley (CB); So. Anthony Gobern (CB)

The Questions: Who plays the other safety position next to Williams? Can Trufant and Long build on solid freshman performances?

Williams has been the unquestioned leader the in the secondary the past two years, although that was mainly because he was the player able to stay healthy and on the field.

The senior-to-be is smart, but limited athletically, so the coaches don't ask him to cover receivers one-on-one as a general rule. Williams' best position is probably at strong safety where he can use his hard-hitting skills to their fullest. At times he delivered some bone-jarring hits that looked like he got the worst of, but eventually he returned back to the field to make a play. With that said, Williams will likely move back to free safety in order to take advantage of his knowledge of the defense so he can get his teammates lined up correctly.

Fellner was a pleasant surprise as a true freshman, posting what many thought was the hit of the season when he leveled WSU RB Carl Winston on a kickoff return. Due to injuries, the talented DB from northern California was thrust into the starting lineup and managed to post 17 tackles and two fumble recoveries. He looks like he's added some size to his frame and it should be interesting to see what he ends up doing as a second-year player this fall.

Glenn's versatility will help this unit in the fall since he could play either free safety or one of the corner positions if necessary. He'll likely battle McDowell and Richardson for the nickel corner position this spring and continue to show what he can do during fall camp.

Richardson and McDowell have a ton of experience and starts under their belt, but they were just unable to get it done consistently and yielded to Trufant and Long, two first-year starters.

Trufant played much more physical than expected and showed the ability to shake off a bad play only to make a great play later on, he finished his freshman season with two interceptions, and he took a fumble back for a touchdown against Notre Dame as well. Long showed an outstanding burst to the ball in zone coverage and held his own in one-on-one coverage as well. Both should be solid starters the rest of their careers if they continue to progress as expected.

Boyles and Gobern both contributed on special teams last fall and seem to be headed in that direction for the foreseeable future. Boyles has the size the coaches covet, so he could get a long look as a backup outside while Gobern appeared a bit stiff in coverage, but he possesses blazing speed that the coaches want to figure out a way to get him on the field.

Persley appears to be the odd-man out in the equation, but with only two years of eligibility remaining he may decide to return and be a contributor in practice rather than transferring.

Shamburger is an intriguing prospect who had to redshirt last fall due to a knee injury he suffered in high school. He's a big, rangy prospect who has the athleticism necessary to be a solid free safety down the road.

Walker is smart and a he's got a great motor, but he's limited athletically. He's solid as a special teams player and will probably be a back up with the amount of talent the Huskies have the at the safety position.

Aiyewa has an NFL-body, but just cannot stay healthy and will be lost to injury for the spring. He's a big-time hitter, but isn't great in space and is unable to do well in coverage. Could he move to linebacker? At this point it doesn't look likely, but that doesn't mean the coaches won't at least give him a look in August once he gets healthy.

Once Parker steps on campus in the summer, the Husky safety unit will get a huge boost in athleticism and playmaking ability. He's smart and, while he may not start, he'll likely see quite a bit of playing time this fall.

Also being added to the mix once summer arrives are safeties Taz Stevenson and Jamaal Kearse, two big and athletic prospects as well as cornerback Greg Ducre who the coaches think can be a lock-down corner down the road.

Other position previews...

Spring Preview: Quarterbacks
Spring Preview: Offensive Line
Spring Preview: Running Backs
Spring Preview: Wide Receivers
Spring Preview: Tight Ends
Spring Preview: Defensive Line
Spring Preview: Linebackers

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