Some of the best news of fall camp for the Washington defense? Senior cornerback Jordan Miller will be back, and back up to speed, when the No. 6 Huskies open against No. 9 Auburn on Sept. 1 in Atlanta.
UW co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said the 6-foot-1 Miller has had an “awesome” camp in his return from a broken ankle last October.
“Really so proud of that young man,” Lake said. “Man, he’s as tough as they get. He attacked his rehab. He’s been making plays day by day. … We started him off slow and kind of took the foot off the gas pedal a little bit and he’s been able to handle it. I’m very excited about him. So proud that he came back and he’s ready to roll.”
With sophomore Byron Murphy at left corner and Miller’s return on the right side, the Huskies might have the best cornerback tandem in the Pac-12, and maybe the best in the country.
“He’s my close friend and when we’re on the field together it’s just a natural thing,” Murphy said. “When I first got here, it was me and Jordan at the corners and I just felt a connection we had on the field. I played on that left side and he played on the right side and I just felt more comfortable. Now he’s back and it’s even better. We’ve got all our guys back and it’s great.”
A look at how the rest of the Huskies’ defensive depth chart has shaped up in fall camp:
Jaylen Johnson, sr., 6-3, 294
Jason Scrempos, jr., 6-6, 292
Jarryn Bush, so., 6-1, 257*
Mosiah Nasili-Liu, fr., 6-2, 281
Greg Gaines, sr., 6-2, 313
Shane Bowman, sr., 6-4, 288
Tuli Letuligasenoa, fr., 6-1, 338
Sam Taimani, fr., 6-2, 320
Levi Onwuzurike, so., 6-3, 283
Josiah Bronson, jr., 6-3, 292*
Jared Pulu, jr., 6-4, 283
John Clark, jr., 6-4, 275*
Draco Bynum, fr., 6-4, 258
OUTLOOK: When Greg Gaines is healthy — and indications are he will be for Auburn — the D-line is in good shape. Jaylen Johnson is motivated for his senior season, and sophomore Levi Onwuzurike will be counted on for regular snaps. It will be interesting to see when freshmen Tuli Letuligasenoaand Sam Taimani might be game-ready; the Huskies could use their heft inside. “As a whole, our chemistry is really good right now,” D-line coach Ikaika Malloe said. The freshmen, he said, are “open to coaching. From Day 1, they all have the typical high-school bull rush and just overpower people. That’s what they came from. And now they’re dealing with elite athletes and they need to learn technique, and to see Tuli try to ‘hump’ somebody or (Taimani) try to hold and pull somebody is really refreshing. Those guys are learning techniques from the veterans and apply those in practice.”
BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: A fifth-year senior, Shane Bowman got a lot of snaps with the No. 1 defense with Gaines sidelined earlier this month. A seldom-used reserve the past few years, he changed his diet this offseason, shedding 15 pounds, and now figures to be a regular part of the rotation. “His mindset has completely flipped,” said sophomore outside linebacker Ryan Bowman, Shane’s brother. “I’ve never seen a guy more devoted and locked in than he is this year. I’m expecting a lot of big things from him.”
Ryan Bowman, so., 6-0, 263
Ariel Ngata, rs-fr., 6-2, 213
Joe Tryon, rs-fr., 6-5, 262
Zion Tupuola-Fetui, fr., 6-2, 250
Ben Burr-Kirven, sr., 6-0, 221
DJ Beavers, jr., 6-1, 220
Jake Wambaugh, sr., 6-2, 220*
Jackson Sirmon, fr., 6-2, 229
Ben Hines, fr., 5-9, 224*
Tevis Bartlett, sr., 6-2, 238
Kyler Manu, jr., 6-1, 232
Matt Preston, sr., 6-2, 235*
MJ Tafisi, fr., 6-2, 224
Brandon Wellington, jr., 6-0, 224
Benning Potoa’e, jr., 6-3, 275
Amandre Williams, so., 6-2, 234
Myles Rice, so., 6-3, 246
Jeffrey Ulofoshio, fr., 6-0, 222*
OUTLOOK: As a redshirt freshman, Ryan Bowman had his breakout in 2017, leading the team with 5.5 sacks. The Huskies will need more of that — much more of that — from him and Benning Potoa’e this season. Look for both on the field together during passing downs. “I made a lot of good plays last year using my feet, but I’ve got to use my hands a lot more and be more of a technician with that,” Bowman said. Inside, the Huskies will rely on Ben Burr-Kirven and Tevis Bartlett, and junior DJ Beavers has made his presence felt in his return from various injuries. Junior Brandon Wellington is ahead of schedule in his return from a torn ACL late last season, but might still need a few more weeks to get up to full speed.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Redshirt freshman Ariel Ngata is one of the most intriguing athletes on the roster. Coming off shoulder surgery last winter, Ngata might not see a lot of action in his first collegiate game against Auburn, but by midseason he could be a valuable pass-rushing option off the edge.
Byron Murphy, so., 5-11, 182
Julius Irvin, fr., 6-1, 177
Dominique Hampton, fr., 6-2, 197
Sean Vergara, sr., 6-2, 182*
Jordan Miller, sr., 6-1, 181
Keith Taylor, so., 6-2, 200
Kyler Gordon, fr., 5-11, 177
Zechariah Brown, rs-fr., 5-10, 184*
Myles Bryant, jr., 5-8, 182
Elijah Molden, so., 5-11, 190
Dustin Bush, jr., 5-9, 178*
Angelo Sarchi, 5-10, 197*
Taylor Rapp, jr., 6-0, 200
Austin Joyner, jr., 5-11, 200
Isaiah Gilchrist, so., 5-11, 202
JoJo McIntosh, sr., 6-1, 205
Brandon McKinney, so., 6-0, 201
OUTLOOK: Count ’em up: The Huskies might have 10 future NFL players in their secondary right now — and, heck, maybe even more than that. Junior Myles Bryant, a 5-foot-8 former walk-on, might not at first glance be an obvious future pro, but from the outside he might be the most underappreciated player on the UW roster. “That guy right there,” Lake said, “he’s our toughest guy on defense. He can handle everything. He is one of the leaders in our room and he works at it before practice, after practice, in the meeting room. He probably watches more tape than anybody in the defensive-back room, and all he is is a warrior once he hits the field in practice and in games. I can’t say enough about that young man.”
BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Second-year sophomore Elijah Molden has been everywhere since spring ball, when he won the defensive backs’ “Best Hands” trophy, and he was again at the top of the leaderboard in interceptions through the first 10 days of fall camp. “He’s smart, he can play a number of different positions. He’s forcing his way onto the football field even though he has really good players sitting right there in front of him,” Lake said. “Really excited about him and you’re going to see him out there playing, for sure.”
As for the three freshman defensive backs? Julius Irvin, Kyler Gordon andDom Hampton all look capable of helping the Huskies this season, and their path to playing time will likely begin on special teams (as was the case for Molden, Brandon McKinney and Keith Taylor as freshmen last year). “Athletically, with their speed, all that, they’re ready to roll,” Lake said. “It’s just more of (when) live bullets are coming at them, how do they react? Can they get a check? Can they get a check after a check and get the call and still play proper technique? So that process is still going on and we’ll make decisions (about playing time) on that down the road.” The NCAA’s new redshirt rule — which allows players to participate in up to four games and still redshirt — will certainly be a factor for those three, and many others throughout the roster.
Peyton Henry, rs-fr., 5-11, 191*
Van Soderberg, so., 6-0, 198
Dylan Williams, fr., 5-9, 150*
Joel Whitford, jr., 6-3, 224
Race Porter, so., 6-1, 178*
Race Porter, so., 6-1, 178*
A.J. Carty, jr., 6-2, 239
Luke Lane, so., 6-0, 207*
Aaron Fuller, 5-10, 190
Byron Murphy, 5-11, 185
Salvon Ahmed, 5-11, 191
Sean McGrew, 5-7, 174
OUTLOOK: The Huskies have a number of options in the return game. Aaron Fuller will be the primary punt returner, with Byron Murphy in the mix, too. The bet here is Salvon Ahmed gets the first chance to return kickoffs; SeanMcGrew has experience in that role, as does Chico McClatcher.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Barring a stunning reversal before Sept. 1, Peyton Henry will be the primary kicker against Auburn. Henry, a left-footed redshirt freshman, was 9-for-9 on field goals during the final practice open to the media last week, and that came a day after he closed practice with a perfect 51-yard field goal. He’s believed to be the Huskies’ first left-footed kicker since Rick Smidt in 1961.
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