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Originally published Thursday, August 20, 2009 at 8:55 PM

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UW eyes improved play from secondary

In attempting to remake a Huskies secondary that last year ranked as the worst in the Pac-10, the new Washington coaches have come up with...

Seattle Times staff reporter

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In attempting to remake a Huskies secondary that last year ranked as the worst in the Pac-10, the new Washington coaches have come up with a simple mantra — to be able to cover your man, first you have to be able to see him.

"It's all about your eyes, how that makes and breaks your coverage skills," said cornerback Justin Glenn, referring to the techniques taught by new cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin. "Because your feet will follow where your eyes go."

The UW secondary mostly made its fans turn away in horror last year, allowing opponents to complete 66.8 percent of passes — more than three percent more than any Pac-10 team — and 24 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.

Add it up, and it was a secondary that ranked 115th in the nation out of 119 in pass-efficiency defense.

But Martin sees potential in his group of cornerbacks.

"Our guys are understanding technique, which is the main thing I felt might have been lacking, for lack of a better word," Martin said. Martin isn't alone in remaking the secondary. In a change from how the secondary was handled under previous coach Tyrone Willingham, Steve Sarkisian hired separate cornerbacks and safeties coaches (Jeff Mills) instead of just one coach to handle the secondary. With Sarkisian largely focused on the offense he felt another assistant (teams are allowed nine) could be spent on defense — UW has five defensive assistants.

The cornerback spot will be especially critical to the efforts of defensive coordinator Nick Holt. Holt wants to make the defenses more aggressive, and good man-to-man coverage — which can allow for more defenders to rush the passer — is a key component.

"Coach Holt, he likes to get after it and send a rush after the quarterback, so we are going to see what he does," said cornerback Quinton Richardson. "Man-to-man wins, that's their motto, and I'm all for it."

Martin said it won't be quite that simple, that the Huskies will mix up coverages often, and also try to disguise what they are doing.

"It's not so much that we are only going to be playing man, but that is what it is going to look like what we are doing," said Glenn. "It will look like we are playing man, but we're not. There will be more diversity."

Man-to-man, though, puts increased pressure on the players to perform.

"Obviously they've got to go out there and do it and not give up the deep ball and not miss tackles," Martin said. "But I think the stuff we are doing on defense as far as the schematic things is tremendous in helping our corners."

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Martin has some experience to work with in sophomore Richardson, who was a full-time starter a year ago and is set at one spot.

Glenn, a redshirt freshman from Kamiak, has continued his strong play from the spring to solidify his hold on the corner spot opposite Richardson. And Sarkisian said Thursday that a fall camp surprise has been the play of redshirt freshman Adam Long of St. Bernard High in Los Angeles, who right now would apparently serve as the main backup.

And despite the struggles of the past seasons, confidence doesn't seem to be an issue. Richardson said that "I just feel like if we work hard at it, we can get it done and be one the best [secondaries] around."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

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