Choosing a Husky Starting Lineup: What Will Molden's UW Legacy Be?
Elijah Molden is the best player on the University of Washington football team, one of its leaders, the guy who came back when others didn't.
He's been guaranteed a spot in the Husky starting lineup.
Molden will take the field again at nickelback, which is another word for centerfielder.
Coach Jimmy Lake would put him at quarterback if that's what the kid from West Linn, Oregon, wanted.
Molden has deeply invested himself in this pandemic-abbreviated season that's coming.
He's a returning first-team All-Pac-12 selection.
He's the reigning Las Vegas Bowl most valuable player.
He's a preseason All-America pick with this attention coming from more than one organization.
As we continue to choose the Huskies starting lineup, now five weeks from the start of the Pac-12's third and hopefully final iteration of a fall schedule, Molden has everything to gain.
While Lake wants his UW players to put all of their energy into winning a league championship, Molden has plenty of personal stuff at stake, too.
How about becoming the Huskies' greatest defensive back of all time?
For the past decade or more, the UW secondary has been, hands down, the program's most potent position area, regularly providing the NFL with able-bodied, game-breaking players.
Yet the Huskies' most decorated defensive backs have come from previous eras.
They've produced a pair of consensus All-Americans in safeties Al Worley in 1968 and Lawyer Milloy in 1995.
They had just one other Associated Press first-team All-America pick, though not recognized by everyone, in cornerback Calvin Jones in 1972.
Yet another prominent Huskies player, Budda Baker, while merely a second-team AP All-American in 2016, now holds the distinction for the Arizona Cardinals as the highest-paid safety in NFL history (4 years, $54 million).
Where does this leave Molden?
We break down this situation here before the UW gives him at least seven more games to add to his already impressive legacy. How far can he take it?
Nickelback candidates: Elijah Molden, 5-10, 191, senior; Elijah Jackson, 6-0, 182, freshman; Kyler Gordon, 6-0, 195, sophomore; Kamren Fabiculanen, 6-1, 186, redshirt freshman; Brandon McKinney, 6-0, 208, senior; Isaiah Gilchrest, 5-11, 212, senior.
Starting experience: Molden, 15 starts; Gordon, 4 starts; McKinney 1 start.
Our selection: Molden. He's the unabashed leader of the Husky secondary, showing himself last year to be one of the two best cornerbacks in the Pac-12. He enters this season as one of the nation's foremost defensive backs. He's built his reputation on being physical and smart, able to anticipate passing routes better than most. He's also a fearless open-field tackler who reacts quickly and limits long gainers. Most of all, he's a reliable defensive leader on the field who simply doesn't make mistakes. Some guys have all of the physical attributes, but make bad decisions. Molden is the total package. For him to elevate himself to be the best defensive back in school history, Molden needs another season full of interceptions and negative-yardage tackles and a UW team that wins a conference championship.
Other options: If Molden for some reason wasn't able to go, look for another Elijah, a freshman named Jackson, or some young player such as Gordon or Fabiculanen to step up and replace him. Jackson is one of the freshman headliners coming in and could play somewhere right away. Gordon has all of the physical attributes needed to be a starter again after pulling four starts in 2019, but he hasn't been a solid decision-maker, which is why he lost his starting job. There is still great hope for him to be an elite player once he gets comfortable with the fast-moving action. McKinney and Gilchrest's time has come and gone, with this duo likely relegated to special-teams duty.
Greatest Husky DB: Lawyer Milloy. He had a sensational two-year run in which in led the Huskies in tackles in 1994 and 1995, was named All-Pac-10 each time and earned consensus All-America honors as a senior. As big and as physical as any Husky free safety, Milloy was a dominant player in the Huskies' last row of defense. He went on to be a second-round NFL draft pick, a four-time Pro Bowl player and won Super Bowl XXXVI.
Other legendary UW DBs: safety Al Worley shares the NCAA record for interceptions in a season, with 14 in 1968, and he finished with 18 in his career; he had games with 4 interceptions against Idaho and 3 against Wisconsin that season; cornerback Calvin Jones was a first-team AP All-American selection and one of the fastest UW defensive backs in school annals; safety Budda Baker was a three-year starter, twice named All-Pac-12 and earned second-team AP All-America honors; defensive back Bill Albrecht came up with 12 interceptions in 1951; safety Taylor Rapp was a Pac-12 championship game as a true freshman in 2016, a two-time All-Pac-12 selection and a second-team All-America pick as a sophomore in 2018.
The UW Starting Lineup:
Left tackle — Jaxson Kirkland
Left guard — Ulumoo Ale
Center — Luke Wattenberg
Right guard — Corey Luciano
Right tackle — Henry Bainivalu
Tight end — Cade Otton
Tight end — Jacob Kizer
Wide receiver — Puka Nacua
Wide receiver — Ty Jones
Running back — Richard Newton
Outside linebacker — Laiatu Latu
Defensive tackle — Tuli Letuligasenoa
Defensive tackle — Josiah Bronson
Outside linebacker — Sav'ell Smalls
Inside linebacker — Edefuan Ulofoshio
Inside linebacker — Miki Ah You
Nickel back — Elijah Molden
Strong safety —
Free safety —
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