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For All the Husky Issues, Safety Wasn't Supposed to Be One of Them

In two games, the UW has started four guys in the two slots across the back row.

Just two games into the season, uncertainty dogs this University of Washington football team like a terrier chewing on a pant leg. It just won't let go. It's incredibly annoying. 

Will the offensive line begin opening holes? When will all of the wide receivers get healthy? Who will start at running back? Will offensive coordinator John Donovan survive the month?

Somewhat mind-boggling is the Huskies' inability to settle on a pair of No. 1 safeties. This position area has been in a state of flux going on three seasons now, with no fewer than six serious candidates currently in the mix.

Yet there's been no Lawyer Milloy, Jimmy Rodgers or Shane Pahukoa emerging back there, locking down jobs, taking names and taking someone's head off.

This Saturday against pass-crazy Arkansas State, the UW will trot out Cameron Williams as the new free safety, teaming him alongside Alex Cook, a new starter at strong safety the game before against Michigan.

"We've been rotating guys to see who's going to go out there and take it," Husky secondary coach Will Harris said. "Cam, he's up this week."

A year ago, Asa Turner and Cook started together at the safety positions for the first three games of the pandemic-curtailed season. In the fourth game, Cook stepped aside for Elijah Molden, who moved over from his usual nickelback slot to finish his Husky career at safety and he's now with the Tennessee Titans.

In 2019, Williams and Turner alternated at strong safety, respectively pulling seven and five starts as true freshmen, while teaming with Myles Bryant, the full-time starter at free safety and now with the New England Patriots' practice squad.

While other Husky positions have been assailed in the past two weeks for poor performance, the safety jobs seem way down the list for criticism. Yet they keep getting swapped out.

Julius Irvin started against Montana and Michigan, while Kamren Fabiculanan opened against Montana, before they were put in reserve roles. Fabiculanan, a redshirt freshman, subbed in against the Wolverines but notably took a bad angle on Blake Corum's breakaway run and couldn't prevent a 67-yard touchdown run.

Turner hasn't started at all this month. He remains a team quandary, a sophomore seemingly dropping from a No. 1 guy last year to a third-teamer who makes brief appearances.

Then there's Dominique Hampton. The sophomore was trumpeted as a spring practice standout and ran with the No. 1 defense more than anyone. Yet he remains a reserve safety, still awaiting his first career start.

Hampton didn't help his chances any at Michigan after he subbed in and was called for a costly taunting penalty after he and his teammates had stopped a third-down play, thus enabling the Wolverines to keep a scoring drive alive. 

“I mean, it’s completely unacceptable,” coach Jimmy Lake said of Hampton's indiscretion. “Things that we talk about, we call it FBI — football intelligence. We show these plays all the time and we watch other teams make boneheaded mistakes like that and sure enough here we go, we did it. So now that’s going to be a shining example of what not to do."

What needs to be done is find two guys who will lay claim to these positions once and for all and provide a dependable back line. 

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