The vaunted University of Washington secondary isn't always perfect. It's reputable, not infallible. In fact, the Huskies just might shuffle some of its pieces for Saturday's football game against Stanford.
If it wasn't evident at the time, the Huskies swapped out 40 percent of their defensive backfield for long stretches once the UW fell behind Utah 21-0 by halftime and had to chip away at the huge deficit, pulling out a dynamic 24-21 victory.
Sophomore cornerback Kyler Gordon played much of the second half in place of senior Keith Taylor, and sophomore strong safety Cam Williams stepped in for junior Alex Cook at times. Both are former starters, pushing to be starters again. It could have been normal rotation time for them, but maybe not.
Gordon and Williams would surprise no one if they stepped onto the field as starters against the Cardinal this coming weekend. Especially Gordon, who will be utilized as a kick returner, too.
"He's such a fantastic athlete," Lake said of the young corner from Mukilteo, Washington. "He's fast. He can move side to side. He's athletic. He's one of the more athletic defensive backs that we've had around here. He's just electrifying. We're also trying to find ways to put the ball in his hands."
Taylor, the veteran corner, got beat a few times early on, most notably giving up an acrobatic 33-yard reception to Utah's Bryan Thompson on the second play of the game.
Cook was victimized for Jake Bentley's 13-yard touchdown pass to Thompson, a ball looped over him in the end zone that gave the Utes their commanding three-touchdown lead.
That sort of stuff happens to everyone in coverage — except the Huskies expect to be a lockdown secondary at all times.
If one guy isn't particularly sharp that day, there's always another defensive back waiting in the wings to take his place.
Against Utah, it was Gordon and Williams' turn.
Gordon drew game-opening duty in the 2019 season's first three outings while Williams was a first-teamer to begin and end his true freshman season, pulling seven starting assignments in all.
Pushing hard for more playing time, Gordon has been a standout on special teams this season, stopping returners dead in their tracks or downing kicks deep in enemy territory. He forced a fumble against Utah that could go a long way in landing him more minutes.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Gordon turned playmaker against the Utes, with his aggressive play preventing the Utes from salting away last Saturday's game. He came up fast, made a hard tackle on Ty Jordan and separated the running back from the football on a play that began at the UW 12.
The forced fumble ended up in the hands of teammate Zion Tupuola-Fetui, who lumbered 29 yards with it to the UW 43. The turnover likely saved the game.
"Kyler showed up in a huge way with a big, big turnover to stop Utah's momentum," Lake confirmed.
As for Williams, he twice beat out Asa Turner when they were true freshmen last season before losing out to him in fall camp in one of the team's more competitive position battles.
On Saturday, Williams played much of the second half at free safety next to Turner, spelling Cook and helping the Huskies shut out Utah for two quarters.
Lake says he's an equal opportunity employer as a coach, unafraid to tinker with his lineup if he feels guys have earned promotions or need to do more to reclaim what they once had. See Kamari Pleasant, Race Porter, Richard Newton and Cook for evidence. It's good, clean competition.
Gordon and Williams have been starters before. And they'll be starters again. Maybe this weekend.
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