NCF Nation: Greg Ducre

Unlike last year, there aren't nearly as many questions surrounding the Washington defense as the Huskies head into the final stretch before fall camp.

Last year a new scheme and new coaches were being installed, headlined by new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. The Huskies' defense was abysmal in 2011 -- so head coach Steve Sarkisian blew it up and started from scratch.

Now the Huskies are looking to build off of the momentum they gained in 2012 when they made huge strides in one year under Wilcox & Co.

"The numbers don't lie," Sarkisian said.

They certainly don't.

The biggest advances were in the secondary, where the Huskies jumped from 87th to 27th in pass efficiency defense, 106th to 31st in total defense, 108th to 39th in scoring defense and 116th to 23rd in pass defense. They had 17 interceptions last year compared to 10 the year before.

"Our secondary really had a very good season for us last year," Sarkisian said. "I thought Justin Wilcox, Keith Heyward, our secondary coach, really came in and did a great job. ... You look at the increase in play we had in the secondary -- our pass defense numbers, our ability to create turnovers -- I think really speaks volumes to their coaching and their ability to develop our players."

That's what Sarkisian is banking on in 2013 -- player development. More specifically, at the cornerback spot where they have to replace first-round draft pick Desmond Trufant. Sarkisian called the competition "healthy" this spring, but isn't anywhere closer to declaring anyone as the leader in the clubhouse for that starting spot. And it might end up being by-committee or which player has the hot hand that week. A few defensive backs have switched positions or spent time at safety and corner in an effort to make the defensive backfield deeper and more versatile.

With Marcus Peters, who started the final eight games opposite Trufant last season, back on one side, the competition heated up over spring between Travell Dixon and Greg Ducre. Sarkisian said that redshirt freshman Cleveland Wallace has also made a big push. Dixon is a JC transfer (once committed to Alabama) and Ducre had 15 tackles while appearing in 13 games last season.

"Desmond Trufant was a great player for us," Sarkisian said. "Anytime you have a first-round draft pick at corner it tells you the quality of player you have. But I think we've got some really capable guys that are stepping in."

If the Huskies can shore up that spot, expect the secondary to make even bigger strides in 2013. Sean Parker, who started all 13 games at safety, returns as the unquestioned leader of the secondary. Will Shamburger, who started two games last year, will see a larger role. But there's some good competition there as well. Tre Watson (who can pitch in either at corner or safety) is in the mix, and early enrollee Trevor Walker had a strong first spring. Brandon Beaver, who converted from corner to safety late last season but was limited in the spring, is also going to press for playing time.

Lots of names. But that also means lots of depth.

"We've got a good amount of talent back there," Sarkisian said. "It's about finding the right combination of those guys. For some of those guys who were redshirt players for us last year, Travell, Brandon, Cleveland, fall camp is going to be big for them. This spring was good to get the terminology and fundamentals and techniques after spending all year on the service team last year. There is a healthy competition going on back there and the end result is we're fortunate to have good depth and good coaches and we feel good about our pass defense when the fall rolls around."

Pac-10 recruiting wrap: Washington

February, 4, 2010
Washington's class of 30 ranked 20th in the country and featured one ESPNU 150 player.

It was another big step forward for the program and second-year coach Steve Sarkisian.

"It's a very complete class from front to back when you talk about 16 players on offense and 14 on defense," Sarkisian said. "It's one that can help us immediately and have an impact this fall for us in 2010 but also when we look at 2011, 12, 13 down the road.''

Top prospects: Safety Sean Parker is likely to immediately work his way into the starting lineup. Nick Montana is the quarterback of the future. "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," Sarkisian said of Montana in relation to his father, some guy named "Joe." Receiver Jamaal Kearse and running back Deontae Cooper may earn playing time, though likely as reserves. Sione Potoa'e should work his way into the rotation on the defensive line. At least a couple of the class' six linebackers will play next year.

Under the radar: Sarkisian is very high on offensive tackle James Atoe. How high? He said Atoe "is a potential top-five NFL draft pick." Sarkisian called cornerback Greg Ducre a "tremendous man-to-man cover corner and that's what we want to get more to playing is man coverage.''

Issues? When a team that went 0-12 a season ago signs a top-20 class, there really aren't many issues, particularly with a class this big that hits just about every position. The biggest disappointment might be losing kicker Alejandro Maldonado to Oregon.

Notes: Cooper has already enrolled ... Montana, running back Jesse Callier and linebacker Victor Burnett are planning to enroll early and participate in spring practices. ... Two members of the class have older brothers on the current Husky team: Zach Fogerson's brother Johri is a running back and Jamaal Kearse's brother Jermaine is a wide receiver. ... Cooper Pelluer's father, Scott, is a former UW assistant coach and his uncle, Steve, was a standout quarterback for the Huskies in the 1980s.