Washington defensive back Elijah Molden breaks up a pass intended for Utah wide receiver Samson Nacua during a game on Nov. 2, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Washington defensive back Elijah Molden breaks up a pass intended for Utah wide receiver Samson Nacua during a game on Nov. 2, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Huskies stocked with NFL talent at defensive back

But Washington’s special teams will have to count on some young players in 2020.

By Mike Vorel / The Seattle Times

Technically, Jimmy Lake is no longer Washington’s defensive-backs coach.

But a change in leadership, or a change in title, won’t change expectations for UW’s experienced DBs.

In the final installment of the 2020 position-by-position breakdowns, let’s take a closer look at the Huskies’ secondary and special teams:


Who’s back


Keith Taylor, sr., 6-3, 195

Dominique Hampton, so., 6-2, 208

Mishael Powell, rs-fr., 6-1, 204*

Trent McDuffie, so., 5-11, 185

Kyler Gordon, so., 6-0, 190

Zechariah Brown, jr., 5-10, 195*


Elijah Molden, sr., 5-10, 190

Julius Irvin, so., 6-1, 191

Isaiah Gilchrist, sr., 5-11, 208


Asa Turner, so., 6-3, 187

Brandon McKinney, sr., 6-0, 201

Nick Juran, rs-fr., 6-0, 194*

Cameron Williams, so., 6-0, 191

Alex Cook, jr., 6-1, 203

Kamren Fabiculanan, rs-fr., 6-1, 181

Who’s out

Myles Bryant

Dustin Bush

Who’s new

S Jacobe Covington, fr., 6-1, 196

S Makell Esteen, fr., 6-1, 176

CB Elijah Jackson, fr., 6-0, 182

CB James Smith, fr., 6-1, 182


Outlook: Welcome to land of established entities. In the secondary, UW returns starting corners Keith Taylor and Trent McDuffie, as well as nickelback Elijah Molden. All Molden did last season was lead the Huskies in tackles (79), pass breakups (13), interceptions (4) and forced fumbles (3), while adding 5.5 tackles for loss and earning first-team all-conference honors. All McDuffie did was pump out 45 tackles, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and an interception while starting 11 consecutive games as a true freshman. And in the back end, true sophomores Cameron Williams and Asa Turner return after starting a combined 12 games in their freshman seasons.

But, if we’ve learned one thing about Lake, it’s that the man loves to play defensive backs. That’s why sophomores Kyler Gordon, Julius Irvin and Dominique Hampton may well see the field in some capacity as well. The 6-0, 190-pound Gordon, an Archbishop Murphy High School alum, is one of the Huskies’ premier athletes and came on strong in his redshirt freshman season, after surrendering his starting job to McDuffie. Gordon finished with 32 tackles and four passes defended. Irvin, meanwhile, is an interesting case. The 6-1, 191-pound defensive back was a blue-chip recruit in the 2018 class, and Lake has repeatedly praised his ability to play a multitude of secondary positions. But after struggling with injuries last offseason, he never made an impact in 2019.

Could Irvin, then, suddenly emerge in the back end at safety? Or perhaps veterans like senior Brandon McKinney and junior Alex Cook could challenge Williams and Turner for those starting roles. Don’t count out 6-1, 196-pound freshman safety Jacobe Covington, perhaps UW’s most impressive defensive signee in 2020 (except, of course, for Sav’ell Smalls).

With Lake overseeing the entire operation at UW, Will Harris and Terrence Brown will tutor the Husky defensive backs in 2020. One thing is certain: there will be no shortage of NFL talent on the field.


Who’s back


Peyton Henry, jr., 5-11, 197

Tim Horn, so., 6-2, 211


Race Porter, sr., 6-2, 183

Kick return

Sean McGrew, sr., 5-7, 186

Terrell Bynum, jr., 6-1, 189

Kyler Gordon, so., 6-0, 190

Punt return

Terrell Bynum, jr., 6-1, 189

Kyler Gordon, so., 6-0, 190

Long snapper

Luke Lane, sr., 6-0, 202

Who’s out

Joel Whitford

A.J. Carty

Van Soderberg

Who’s new

LS Jaden Green, fr., 5-10, 201

P Triston Brown, fr., 6-1, 190

Outlook: UW’s special teams were generally improved last season. After beating out true freshman Tim Horn for the starting place-kicking job in fall camp, Peyton Henry connected on 19 of 21 field goals and all 49 extra points — earning a scholarship in the process. Horn secured touchbacks on 55% of his kickoffs, up from 32.43% with Henry holding that job in 2018. UW punters averaged 44.62 yards per punt, which ranked 20th nationally and second in the Pac-12. Senior punter Joel Whitford knocked a career-best 16 punts inside the 20-yard line. Heck, Aaron Fuller even returned a punt for a touchdown in a road win over Brigham Young.

But what now? Whitford is gone. Fuller is gone. Veteran long snapper A.J. Carty is gone. The Huskies are going to have to count on some first-time specialists in 2020 — most notably, freshman punter Triston Brown and long snapper Jaden Green. Out of Mt. San Antonio College, Brown was ranked as the top punter in the 2020 class by Chris Sailer Kicking. Green was regarded as the No. 3 long snapper in his class by Kohl’s Scholarship Camp. Neither player was given a scholarship to sit on the bench, so expect both to start immediately in 2020. But it goes without saying that one bad snap, or botched punt, could flip an entire season.

As for the returners, at this point, that’s a matter of speculation. Fuller was UW’s full-time punt returner each of the past two seasons, while Sean McGrew and Salvon Ahmed handled most kick returns in 2019. McGrew is certainly a candidate to do so again, but beyond that, the roles will go to the players who most impress in practices this offseason. Bynum has some of the surest hands on the roster, while Gordon — as previously noted — may be UW’s most dynamic all-around athlete.

Talk to us

More in Sports

Kispert’s NBA draft decision on hold for now

The Edmonds native and Gonzaga junior is playing the waiting game with the pre-draft process unsettled.

Community sports roundup: MP alum earns big academic honor

Olivia Lee’s work at EvCC is recognized; the Snohomish Soccer Dome closes its doors for good.

POLL RESULTS: “The Last Dance” was a big hit

Readers watched the 10-part documentary on the Chicago Bulls of the 90s, and they liked what they saw.

Silvertips notebook: Fonstad likely to return to Everett

The winger is not signing a pro contract with Montreal, meaning a return to the WHL is likely.

MG’s Knight named Gatorade state baseball player of year

Despite not having a season, the star junior was recognized as the top overall player in Washington.

Stay or go? Local senior college athletes face tough decision

Whether to accept the NCAA’s offer of an extra year due to the missed spring season isn’t black and white.

Oregon State’s Mikayla Pivec speaks to reporters during the Pac-12 Conference women’s NCAA college basketball media day last Oct. 7 in San Francisco. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Pivec won’t play in the WNBA during the 2020 season

The Atlanta Dream announce the Lynnwood High School product will sit out for personal reasons.

Major issues confront Minor League Baseball and the AquaSox

“When the time is right for baseball to return, we will be here,” pledges general manager Danny Tetzlaff.

“The Last Dance,” a 10-part documentary produced by NBA legend Michael Jordan, is a 10-part series chronicling the Chicago Bulls’ run to the 1997-98 NBA championship, the franchise’s sixth title in eight seasons. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser)
POLL: Have you seen “The Last Dance,” and what’s your take?

The 10-part ESPN documentary on Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls has been a phenomenon of the pandemic.

Healthy George Karl starts podcast, may someday coach again

The ex-Sonics coach, who has survived cancer three times, talks about the time he offended Michael Jordan’s sensibilities.

Felix Hernandez aims for 200 career wins and 3,000 strikeouts

But the COVID-19 pandemic is getting in the way of the former Mariner’s pitcher’s goals.

Seahawks agree to deal with veteran running back

Carlos Hyde, who began his career in San Francisco, rushed for 1,070 yards for the Texans last season.