Washington football: Previewing the secondary

The Washington football team returns a host of experienced defenders across the board in the front seven, but the secondary does not have that same luxury. With one established star and a slew of talented, unproven players making up the Huskies’ secondary, the potential for volatility at the back of the defense is high. That isn’t a bad thing necessarily- the talent is abundant on this Washington football roster. If young players are able to step up and make an impact early in their collegiate careers, the secondary could be the most exciting position group on the Huskies in 2014.

[Washington football: Previewing the linebackers]

Marcus Peters (6-foot, 198-pounds) Jr. CB

In two seasons at UW, Peters has quickly established himself as a top level cornerback in the PAC-12. Compiling 25 pass deflections, 8 interceptions, and a second-team all PAC-12 honor to his credit in two seasons as a starter for Washington football, Peters is poised to have an even bigger season in 2014.

Washington football

Peters looks forward to having an even better year after a dominate 2013 campaign.

Named to the Jim Thorpe award watch list (an award he very likely could win), it will be up to Peters to be the driving force of the secondary.

Peters uses his long arms and physical nature out wide to lock up wide receivers while also using his great speed to run with them stride for stride. Peters exemplifies exactly what the new wave of defensive backs in the NFL are trending towards. Long, physical, athletic DBs who aren’t afraid to play at the line, but still have the ball skills to locate and attack the ball once it is in the air. Reference Peters’ 5 interceptions and 14 pass deflections in 13 games last season.

With young guys surrounding Peters in the secondary he could see fewer pass attempts come his way while teams test the less experienced members of the secondary. Much like when former Washington football cornerback Desmond Trufant took Peters under his wing and groomed him to be the next starter before parting for the NFL, Peters will have the similar task of helping the development of potential star Jermaine Kelly.

If Kelly and the rest of the secondary can follow Peters’ lead, opposing teams will have a difficult time moving the ball through the air in 2014.

Jermaine Kelly (6-foot-1, 188-pounds) RsFr. CB

I have written before about Kelly when I named him one of my spring preview winners after an impressive display during spring. Similar to Peters, Kelly has the makings of an NFL cornerback.

Exceptional size, long arms which help establish contact and disrupt routes, and impressive closing speed all make Kelly an exciting prospect for the Washington football team in 2014. Kelly’s only downside at this point is his lack of experience. Kelly spent last season redshirting and won defensive scout squad MVP, an award that Peters also won when he redshirted.

There is always a learning curve when adjusting to college football. Assuming Kelly adjusts quickly, the cornerback position could be stronger than it ever was under Coach Sarkisian.

[Washington football: Previewing the defensive line]

Brandon Beaver (6-foot, 184-pounds) So. Safety

The two safety positions will most likely feature one of the most competitive position battles during fall camp. At this point, the lack of experience at the position should allow for anyone to step up and claim the spot for themselves. Beaver appears to be the leading candidate to take over at one of the safety spots.

Recruited as a 4* cornerback out of high school but converted to safety during his redshirt season, Beaver has a ton of potential but sparse in-game experience. The success of the Washington football team may rely on Beaver’s ability to step in and make plays from the first game onward.

The Huskies should have a dominate defense in 2014, especially in the front seven. If Beaver can keep the top on for this extremely talented defense, the Huskies could have an even better defense than originally anticipated.

Budda Baker (5-foot-10, 177-pounds) Fr. Safety

It hasn’t been decided if Baker will play cornerback, safety, or even running back/wide receiver. Possessing sub 11-second 100 meter sprint speed, Baker has the speed necessary to be a playmaker no matter where he lines up.

Given the need at safety, I think Baker will find early playing time competing for one of the starting safety spots. The Huskies have reshaped their defense over the last two years by emphasizing speed and an ability to attack the ball. This is most evident by the increase in speed at linebacker achieved by converting safeties. Baker may be slightly undersized for a collegiate safety, but the speed he brings to the back of the defense will allow him to play down field and use his speed to cause havoc.

Baker also provides the defense with a true safety valve. A player with the speed to help prevent the big play and neutralize the speedy threats that are ever abundant in the PAC-12.

Baker will need an impressive fall camp if he wants to be a starter for the Hawaii game on August 30th. With his speed and game changing athleticism, it will only be a matter of time before Baker busts onto the scene and dazzles in the purple and gold.

Other Notables:

Travell Dixon (6-foot-1, 200-pounds Sr.) and Kevin King (6-foot-2, 181-pounds So.) also look like players who will contend for starting spots early. Dixon is a physical corner who is an Alabama transfer. He could play his way into a starting role early or find himself getting a healthy number of snaps as the nickel corner. King could also very well be a starter at one of the safety positions. King was an absolute beast at the Washington football combine finishing in the top-5 in four out of the six drills. They won’t be alone in the competition during the fall. Coach Petersen signed a host of defensive backs in his first recruiting class as the Washington football coach. Competition is sure to be steep come August.

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