Safety First: UW's Top Position Battles Team-wide are on Secondary Back Row

Hampton, Irvin and Covington all pushing hard for a Husky safety starting job.
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Dominique Hampton wants to play so bad for the University of Washington football team, he's altered his physique and changed positions. He'd probably be willing to sweep the stadium, too, if it came to that.

He's been singled out as one of the Huskies who's made the biggest moves during two weeks of spring practice, which reaches its halfway point on Saturday with a full-pads, live-contact scrimmage, beginning at 10:30 a.m.

For Hampton — and not to diminish his efforts by any means — but it still might not be nearly enough.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior from Glendale, Arizona, now plays free safety, which might be the most competitive position battle in the most hotly contested position area on the team.

Hampton has drawn most of the reps this spring, but this position free-for-all could easy continue into the fall and up until the season opener kickoff because there are so many strong candidates.

"Everybody is in a quandary in the back end as to who's going to be the safeties," UW secondary coach Will Harris said, almost giddy. "What we like about it is it's competitive."

That it is.

Hampton, who appeared in 19 games over three previous seasons as a reserve cornerback, has to contend with — and not necessarily in this order — senior and previous starter Alex Cook, junior Julius Irvin, sophomore Kamren Fabiculanan and redshirt freshman Jacobe Covington.

All of these guys are interchangeable, too, with juniors Asa Turner and Cam Williams, who've split time as the starting strong safety the past two seasons. Even Oklahoma transfer Bookie Radley-Hiles has moved over for some safety reps when he's not been pulling nickel back duty.

"Dom's been having a heckuva camp so far," Harris said. "You can see we moved him to safety for more of that physical presence, as far as his body size goes."

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Irvin, son of former NFL cornerback great Leroy Irvin, was slowed noticeably during his first three UW seasons by knee and shoulder injuries. He appeared in 12 games as a reserve and got beat a couple of times for late scores in last year's Arizona game. Irvin looks more put together this spring.  

"Now he's fully healthy and, man, he's been on one as far as being locked in," Harris said.

Then there's the highly touted Jacobe Covington, who's bulked up a lot in his first full year in the program and carries a 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame. He was a reserve cornerback in his initial Husky season last fall. He's trying to become a starting safety now.

"Jacobe's been really good," Harris said. "He switched over because of his physical size. Moving him to safety, I think was perfect for him. He's also another one who's going to be interesting. He's pushing, too."

Williams was the strong safety starter most of the 2019 season, beating out Turner, losing the job to him and then regaining it for seven starts. Turner started all four games last season. Back and forth it goes, like a tennis volley.

Curiously, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Turner has mostly given way to Williams and others during six days of non-contact scrimmages and appears well down the depth chart.

Asked about this curious development, Harris said he already knows what the lanky Turner can do and is just trying to get a longer look at the younger players in contention. 

Everybody will come to play in Saturday's scrimmage, trying to make contact while separating themselves from the competition. 

Harris seems to be enjoying himself as he moves players around like human chess pieces. He has no trouble calling the entire DB room one of the best the Huskies have had.

"It's going to be really, really interesting because the room is loaded," the veteran secondary coach said. "I've got the hardest job because I have to find the best five to go out there."

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