Three games into his 2019 season, Kyler Gordon lost his starting cornerback job. Then a redshirt freshman, he got caught flat-footed in the University of Washington secondary and gave up a few big plays, especially late in a 20-19 loss to California.
Oh, what a difference a year makes.
After three November outings now, Gordon appears on the verge of getting his bigger workload back. He's the one making positive things happen. None has been more visible than his fourth-quarter hit on Utah's Ty Jordan that caused a fumble, likely prevented a touchdown and helped enable a 24-21 Husky victory.
A highly regarded player who selected Washington over Notre Dame, Gordon hasn't had his nose out of joint over moving in and out of the lineup. He's accepted this as part of the deal for being in such a nationally respected position group.
"This is one of the reasons I came here — is to be competitive and be in a competitive room," he said. "Every week I'm competing with myself and each other just to be the best."
Gordon lined up opposite Keith Taylor as a starting corner before giving up his spot to then-true freshman Trent McDuffie. If he returns to the opening lineup soon, he'll likely replace Taylor, who's a senior.
It's all part of coach Jimmy Lake's insistence on making starting jobs available team-wide to those who want them the most.
When the 2019 season ended, Gordon went right to work on his shortcomings.
"I just looked at my weaknesses and took that aside in the offseason and was really detailed in how I could correct myself in order to make a bigger difference, a bigger impact for this team," he said.
He had all of the physical skills, maybe more than anyone else on the team, at any position.
What Gordon needed most was to play smarter, better recognize situations through film study and come back as a player who couldn't be fooled. No one is going to outrun or outjump him.
"I was just going out there and fully dissecting the offense and being able to predict what's coming," he said. "Once I get to know more of the game, I'll be confident in my calls and it'll allow me to play more free."
Gordon won't outwardly advocate for himself to become a starter again. While it's a personal goal, he learned how to say the right things. Make the Huskies a winner comes first. He knows he's going to get his minutes at corner and be the special-teams leader. The rest is up to him.
One change this cover guy has had to deal with is having Lake became the Washington head coach and no longer oversee the secondary as closely as he once did. At least that's what it looks like on paper. Gordon is getting the full treatment.
"He's still coaching me up all the time," Gordon said with a little laugh. "He'll still come over but it's not 24/7 that he's in the room. He's still there, though. He's not gone."
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