Coming into the 2013 season, the biggest question mark on defense was the secondary. The Huskies had to replace first round draft pick Desmond Trufant at corner and underrated Justin Glenn at safety. In addition to that, even though Marcus Peters was a starter last year, he had the duties of the secondary corner, taking on the #2 receiver against every team instead of their top target. The only sure thing seemed to be Sean Parker, an often overlooked star on the Huskies defense who has the most starting experience out of everyone else on this year’s roster. After long competition that stretched through fall camp, Will Shamburger won the Free Safety spot and Gregory Ducre won the other Cornerback position. Seeing that both of these players are seniors and they have both seen significant playing time in previous seasons, everyone knew that the Secondary would at least be experienced and mature, starting three seniors and one sophomore. The question was how good can this secondary be with two new starters and one relatively untested returner?
That question was answered with a bang against Boise State: 175 yards passing, no touchdowns, no passes over twenty yards. Obviously there will be much better passing teams the Huskies will face (Almost the entire Pac-12), but this was about as good of a performance as the defensive backs could have put together. Southwick could not complete anything truly vertical. Every completion was a screen, a slant, a curl, or a dig. The reason this is such a big deal is because the entire season for the defense kind of depends on how the Secondary performs. The Linebackers are one of the best squads in the country, and the D-Line has the tools to be very good, even though they weren’t all that great last Saturday. Washington will be able to stop the run because of the tremendous talent at Linebacker, so what most teams will probably try to do against the Huskies is pick the secondary apart.
After what we saw Saturday, I’m not sure that that will be an option. Shamburger locked everything down deep, the Broncos didn’t even try going there, and even though they were able to complete lots of short passes, the corners were able to tackle very well in space with no help, something that is absolutely necessary for a defense to be successful (We’re looking at you, Nick Holt). In the red zone, the DB’s locked down on receivers and didn’t allow separation. One of the best plays of the game was that third down when BSU was inside the three yard line. They tried throwing a quick slant but Peters stayed on his man and knocked it away.
So, let’s review, what are the keys to a great bend-don’t-break pass defense? Great coverage down the field, tackling in space, and locking down on receivers in the red zone. The Huskies hit on all three elements perfectly Saturday. Obviously they have yet to be tested against top-tier passers and receivers, but if the secondary’s talent and maturity is truly as good as we’ve already seen, this could be a Rose-Bowl caliber defense.