SEATTLE — When it comes to press clippings, athletes typically fall into one of two categories. There are those who stay away from it all, knowing that the praise and/or criticism will affect their psyche. Others read only the positive stuff, looking for a quick ego boost.
Then there’s Greg Walker. The University of Washington safety reads it all.
And the things people are saying about the Huskies’ secondary these days are not too complimentary.
“They say don’t read it, but I like to read it,” Walker said. “I’ve read a lot. I know what they’ve said about us.”
“That we’re the worst secondary in the nation,” he said. “That they did a terrible job of recruiting us and that we can’t play. And that we’re tender, we don’t like to get hit.”
After giving up 451.8 yards per game, much of that coming on long pass plays when games were still in doubt, the UW defense has continued to take its lumps throughout the offseason.
And the Huskies defensive backs are out to quiet the critics.
“We’re really eager,” said sophomore cornerback Quinton Richardson, whose most visible play of the 2008 season came when Washington State receiver Jared Karstetter beat him for a long pass play on the Cougars’ final drive of the Apple Cup. “We feel like we have a lot to prove. Last year, we didn’t do too well.”
That might be the understatement of the offseason. For the second year in a row, the Huskies set a team record for most yards allowed per game in 2008.
That’s not a streak this year’s team is willing to extend.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” safety Nate Williams said. “We haven’t been that good the past couple of years. We know what people might say about us, and we’re obviously playing with a chip on our shoulder.”
After an 0-12 season, the Huskies have plenty of returning players carrying chips on their shoulders. But no unit carries bigger baggage than the secondary.
With much of its secondary returning intact, the Huskies have a rare chance to make up for previous struggles. Richardson and Williams are expected to return to the starting lineup, while redshirt freshmen Walker and cornerback Justin Glenn, a former Kamiak High School standout, are currently running with the first team.
“We’re happy to have a lot of our guys come back,” Walker said. “We’ve got some depth, and we’ve got some talent, and we can make a difference.
“This team’s only going to be as good as our secondary, so we’ve got to go out there and play like we can and prove everybody wrong.”
The Huskies’ secondary certainly has a lot to prove. What the defensive backs lack in statistical proof, they make up for in confidence. So when Richardson was asked what the so-called critics might be saying after the 2009 season, he broke out in a proud grin.
“They’re back,” he said. “They’re back on top.”