Husky Football: Position Preview – DB

Cornerback Marcus Peters getting the crowd pumped up in 2012.

Cornerback Marcus Peters getting the crowd pumped up in 2012.

Husky Football: Position Preview – DB

Husky Football is only two days away as the Dawgs take on Hawaii this Saturday at 7:30pm PT. With the season right around the corner we will be rounding out our fall camp position previews. The defensive secondary is one of inexperience, but also a position of talent and potential.

 

Who’s Gone:

Sean Parker: Parker was one of the most consistent Husky players in the past four years. He came into the program as a highly regarded national prospect and he lived up to the hype. Parker started nearly every game as a freshman and never looked back. His experience and consistency playing centerfield for the defense will surely be missed this season.

Greg Ducre: Ducre had his best season in 2013 without a doubt. He battled his way through the depth chart the previous three years and he eventually prevailed. Ducre’s man coverage was excellent thanks to his elite speed.  He is currently trying to make the San Diego Chargers roster.

Will Shamburger: Similar to Ducre, Shamburger had battled injuries and depth throughout his first three years as a Husky; however, he emerged as a solid starter his senior season. Shamburger’s experience and veteran leadership will be tough to replace in 2014.

Tre Watson: Watson’s story is an inspiring one. He was born and raised in the Seattle area and grew up as a die-hard Husky fan. He had always dreamed of one day playing for the Huskies; however, after his senior season at O’Dea High School the only scholarship he had was to Central Washington University. Watson spent his first two seasons in Ellensburg honing his talents and eventually made his dream a reality by transferring to UW for his final two years of eligibility. Watson was a key reserve in the defensive secondary who provided great versatility.

Cleveland Wallace: Wallace appeared in nearly every game in his freshman campaign; however, he has decided to transfer to San Jose State in order to be closer to home. Wallace showed great upside and would have likely been the starting cornerback opposite of Marcus Peters had he decided to stay in Seattle.

 

2014-2015 DB’s:

Cornerback:

Marcus Peters: (6-0 190 lbs; Junior; 2013 Stats: 55 Tackles, 5 INTs, 1 Sack, 1 FF) Peters is a true lock-down cover corner who is not afraid to come up and make a hit in the running game. He has the size to play a physical, Richard Sherman-esque, style of man coverage. Peters needs to emerge as a locker room leader and help out the young inexperienced talent surrounding him in the secondary. Expect opposing quarterbacks to avoid Peters the majority of the game; however, when they do test him he will make them pay.

Jermaine Kelly: (6-1 190 lbs; Redshirt Freshman) Kelly has solidified himself as the second starting cornerback opposite of Marcus Peters. Kelly has excellent size for the corner position and has shined in his limited game-like environments such as the spring game and fall scrimmages. Look for Kelly to experience some growing pains, as all freshman do, but also expect him to make plays based off of his raw talent.

Naijel Hale: (5-10 177 lbs; Freshman) Hale has impressed the fans and the coaches in his first fall camp with the Huskies. He came into the program with great ambition, instincts, and ability which has helped him work his way through the depth chart. Hale has separated himself from the other freshmen cornerbacks and has settled in as the third cornerback on the 2014 roster.

Sidney Jones: (6-0 171 lbs; Freshman) Jones has really turned it on the second half of fall camp and is poised to make his Husky debut at some point this season. Typically, coaches would like freshmen to redshirt; however, with the lack of depth at the position a few freshmen will be forced into action. Jones has improved quickly and is proving that his is ready to rise to the occasion.

Travell Dixon: (6-1 195 lbs; Senior) Dixon entered the Husky program three years ago with a lot of hype. He transferred from a JC; however, before that he was a promising freshman at Alabama. Dixon has not been able to find significant playing time the past two seasons, and with the influx of young talent it won’t be any easier this season.

Brian Clay: (6-1 196 lbs; Junior) Clay transferred from Hawaii last year and had to sit out due to NCAA rules regarding transfers. Clay was consistently generating buzz due to his performances at practice. Clay brings excellent size and experience to the cornerback position, but he too may get lost in the pool of young and promising talent.

Darren Gardenhire: (5-11 173 lbs; Freshman) Gardenhire is on the bubble regarding whether or not he will redshirt this season. He has shown enough improvement and natural ability the second half of fall camp that Coach Pete is giving him an opportunity to  play this season. Expect Gardenhire to proceed as an unofficial redshirt; however, if he performs well enough in practice or injuries thin out the position, he will see the field this season.

Brandon Lewis: (5-10 181 lbs; Freshman) Lewis seems to be the odd one out of the freshmen cornerbacks. It seems that a redshirt season is the most likely outcome in his case. This could be a blessing in disguise as he is given a year to adapt to college life, get stronger in the weight room, and come back a better player in 2015.

Free Safety:

Budda Baker: (5-10 173 lbs; Freshman) Baker has been one of the breakout stars of fall camp. He has sprinted his way to the top of the depth chart with his speed, hustle, and instincts. In the fall scrimmage it seemed as if Budda was always around the ball and making plays. Some will questions his size, but I would encourage those same people to educate themselves on All-Pro Free Safety, Earl Thomas (5-10 200 lbs). Budda will make his presence known on defense as well as special teams returning kicks and punts in 2014…man that sure sounds familiar?

Kevin King: (6-3 183 lbs; Sophomore) King gained some valuable experience last season as he filled in for an injured Will Shamburger for a few games. King is an interesting prospect with excellent size and great athleticism. Although he was beaten out by Budda for the starting spot, expect King to find his way onto the field and make the most of it.

Thomas Vincent: (6-0 200 lbs; Senior) Vincent is a great story as he starred at local King’s High School as a quarterback. Vincent walked on as a freshman QB. Last season he was moved to the defensive side of the ball and has been playing Free Safety ever since. It is unlikely that he will have a major impact this season; however, he is a good locker-room guy that simply enjoys being a part of the process.

Strong Safety:

Brandon Beaver: (6-0 192 lbs; Sophomore) Beaver spent nearly all of fall camp as the starting Free Safety, but the emergence of Budda Baker made the coaches slide Beaver over to Strong Safety. Beaver has some experience as a reserve last season, but he still remains a raw player with loads of upside. He was a standout this spring making plays and creating turnovers left and right. Expect Beaver to become a solid player in the back-end of the defense.

Trevor Walker: (5-11 186 lbs; Sophomore) Walker spent all of fall camp as the starting Strong Safety; however, with Brandon Beaver sliding over to Strong Safety he has been moved down a spot in the depth chart. Although Beaver has been named the starter, don’t be surprised if Walker gets his chances to prove himself this weekend against Hawaii.

Jojo McIntosh: (6-1 191 lbs; Freshman) McIntosh will likely redshirt this season; however, he will need to keep himself ready to play as there is not a ton of depth at either safety position. McIntosh is an athletic prospect that could also contribute as a returner on special teams in the future.

 

2014 Outlook:

Although the defensive secondary is the most inexperienced position on the team, it is also the most promising position for the future. The influx of young talent will experience their growing pains in 2014, but in the grand scheme of things they will emerge as the strength on future Husky teams. With that being said, they are not throwing this season out the window. This secondary has one of the top cornerbacks in the country in Marcus Peters, and one of the most promising young talents in the PAC-12 in Budda Baker. Expect the defensive backfield to be a work in progress throughout the season with many players getting playing time. The secondary will be far from perfect in 2014, but they will also make some game-breaking plays and create turnovers at opportune times.

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