Analysis: Examining the weather behind UW’s latest defensive again decline
On March 29 — 30 days earlier than he was chosen by the Kansas City Chiefs with the No. 21 total decide within the 2022 NFL draft — Trent McDuffie stood within the Dempsey Center, surrounded by former teammates and media members and a smattering of NFL scouts. A former four-star recruit who began 26 of a doable 29 video games at UW, McDuffie was the plain headliner of the Huskies’ professional day.
He was additionally additional proof of former head coach Jimmy Lake’s prolific course of, one which resulted in 11 DB draft picks from 2014 to 2022.
But with out Lake — and McDuffie, and Kyler Gordon, and Brendan Radley-Hiles, and Elijah Molden, and Budda Baker, and on and on and on — would UW’s DB manufacturing unit fall into disrepair?
“All the guys in the DB room know what the standard is. It’s kind of just ingrained in us. It’s just our DNA,” McDuffie stated on the time. “They’re going to continue the culture, DBU, all that. Because you just look back at the years past, and they can just watch everybody that’s been in front of them and take what they’ve done.
“We’re always here. We’re always going to be around. We’re always here for the freshmen who want questions answered, things like that.”
Six months later, there’s way more questions than solutions.
And McDuffie isn’t strolling again by means of that door.
In UW’s final two video games — each losses — the Huskies surrendered 73% completions with 556 passing yards, six passing touchdowns and a lone interception. They rank sixth within the Pac-12 in opponent completion share (63.3%), seventh in passing protection (234.7 yards allowed per sport), 10th in opponent go effectivity score (146.19), 11th in opponent yards per go try (7.8) and tied for final in opponent go touchdowns (13).
Simply put, UW’s secondary isn’t as deep or gifted because it’s been previously. Lake and Co. signed 12 four-star defensive backs in a six-class span, from 2014 to 2019. Of these 12, six have been drafted, only one transferred out (security Brandon McKinney) and three stay on the roster (Julius Irvin, Kamren Fabiculanan and Asa Turner).
The Huskies signed simply two four-star DBs of their final three courses — Jacobe Covington in 2020 and Tristan Dunn in 2022 — and Covington transferred to USC in May. (UW coach Kalen DeBoer, by the best way, admitted Monday that “we had some changes to our roster that were unforeseen,” clearly referring to Covington.)
It’s true, recruiting rankings aren’t every little thing — however they clearly matter. Of UW’s 11 drafted DBs within the Lake Era, seven have been ranked as four-star recruits.
When UW led the nation in go protection (142.9 yards per sport) and opponent yards per go try (5.4) final fall, its beginning secondary featured four-star nook McDuffie, four-star nook Kyler Gordon, four-star nickel Brendan Radley-Hiles, four-star security Asa Turner and three-star security Alex Cook.
Injuries have altered the equation as nicely. Three of UW’s 5 secondary starters within the season opener — corners Jordan Perryman and Mishael Powell and security Asa Turner — have missed a mixed 9 video games. Redshirt freshman security Vince Nunley (an anticipated contributor) is out for the season, cornerback Elijah Jackson missed the primary 5 video games and veteran security Cameron Williams (although wholesome) knowledgeable the workers previous to the UCLA sport of his choice to redshirt.
When requested Monday why UW performed 11 completely different defensive backs — together with true freshman security Tristan Dunn and walk-on Sean Toomey-Stout — in opposition to ASU, co-defensive coordinator Chuck Morrell stated merely: “Necessity.”
“Well, obviously we’re taking some tough lessons right now,” Morrell later added. “I look throughout the course of the season, and there’s never any excuses at all. The standard is the standard of what we need to uphold and maintain. But through six weeks, we’ve played six different starting lineups out of necessity. I think the biggest thing is, we need to now get paid off with some of those guys who have had to be on the field (producing better performances).”
After Covington’s exit, UW tried so as to add DB depth by way of the switch portal this summer season, however DeBoer stated “we either didn’t see a quality enough player that could come help us, or just didn’t feel character-wise it was someone that would help us with building our culture.”
There are different components as nicely. Morrell insisted Monday that UW’s DBs perceive the newly put in system, saying “I can take any guy into the film room right now, and they know our scheme. They know it inside and out.”
But are they capable of execute it, contemplating the quantity of man-to-man protection stated system requires?
“It’s definitely a lot more man coverage for the safeties,” Cook stated Tuesday. “We’re playing man anywhere from five yards to 10 yards, 11 yards off (the ball). It’s just something we aren’t really used to. It’s still something we’re trying to perfect, get better at. Definitely for myself, I’m trying to get better at that.”
The new system, compounded by continuously shuffling personnel, have yielded communication points as nicely. Morrell stated UW’s defensive communication “wasn’t even close to where it needed to be” in opposition to UCLA, earlier than enhancing final weekend at ASU. Cook added “that’s really the main piece, recognizing the formations and being able to anticipate stuff so you can make the calls.”
Which is tough to do with younger gamers and numerous personnel permutations.
“Obviously Meesh (Powell), Jordan (Perryman), Asa (Turner), Dom (Hampton) and I, Kam (Fabiculanan), we spent a lot of time together in the offseason and we just build that bond, that chemistry,” Cook stated. “We were making calls when nobody was around, going through gamelike situations with each other. For new guys to step in and change that chemistry, it’s a little different.”
Meanwhile, UW’s go rushers have been unable to copy their eight-sack success in opposition to Stanford — managing one mixed sack within the two video games since. Morrell stated “those (edges) are still winning at the line of scrimmage, but at times the ball is coming out extremely quickly. I think that’s a methodology people are using the protect the quarterback right now.”
The result’s opposing offenses motivated to be aggressive to match Michael Penix Jr. and Co., and quarterbacks unbothered by the Husky go rush. Reinforcements could also be a 12 months away, as UW has verbal commitments from a pair of 2023 four-star DBs — cornerback Curley Reed and security Vincent Holmes.
But for now, can a struggling secondary regain its swagger in opposition to Arizona on Saturday?
“We tell them after the game that we love them and we believe in them. It’s that simple,” Morrell stated. “We really are trying to create a culture of letting the guys know we really care about them individually, even at times when their performance suffers. ‘The next day is going to be a new opportunity for you.’
“I just saw it yesterday in the film room. We’re going through the details of the mistakes that we made down south, and guys were really locked in. Then we go out and go through a walk-through and guys are helping coach each other and correct each other from the mistakes that were made, and they were talking through the situations. To me, that’s a huge sign of positivity.”
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