Further demonstrating how exceptional the University of Washington football team was last season, the previous coaching staff started seven different safeties, either unable to keep them healthy or unwilling to trust them. for a long time.
Gone were the days, at least temporarily, when proven players like Budda Baker and Taylor Rapp roamed the back line of the Husky defense and were immovable objects all season long.
During the lost 2021 season, Alex Cook drew the most starting Husky safety assignments (9) by a wide margin. He did it even as he was leaving a midseason game in Arizona in terrifying fashion — Cook suffered a concussion that left him prone and shut down the crowd, strapped to a stretcher on the field and loaded into a emergency vehicle and was transported to a Tucson hospital. .
However, the Sacramento, Calif. native was cleared to play again after sitting out one game to comply with concussion protocols. He proved to be stable.
In this run at the Husky position, Cook was followed in the number of safety starts by teammates Asa Turner (4), Cam Williams (3), Dominique Hampton (3), Julius Irvin (2), Kamren Fabiculanan (1) and Bookie Radley-Hiles (1). All but Radley-Hiles return, though some in different positions.
UW traded safeties in and out of the lineup starting in 2021 spring practice, continued this crazy approach through fall camp and didn’t stop as the season unraveled.
With Kalen DeBoer’s new staff at the helm, one of the goals last spring was to bring experience and stability to the UW secondary.
If they were to play a game tomorrow, the Huskies would most likely open with Mishael Powell and Jordan Perryman at cornerback, Dominique Hampton at the hybrid Husky position, and Turner and Cook as the safeties.
They are two fourth-year sophomores, a fifth-year junior, and a sixth-year senior couple.
Leading the way is the 6-foot-1, 194-pound Cook, a more unique player who remains the answer to a trivial UW football question.
Who started at wide receiver for the Huskies as a redshirt freshman in the 2019 Rose Bowl against Ohio State?
The versatile Cook spent two seasons as a UW passer before switching to defensive end, where he will finish his Montlake football career. He felt compelled to stay one more season. He felt needed.
“When I told myself I was going to come back, it was, ‘Yeah, I have to grow up and be a leader now,'” he said. “That was really one of the reasons I wanted to stay.”
Scroll to Continue
Amid all the Husky changes, Cook has been a voice of reason. He has talked about the calming effect that his new coach, DeBoer, has introduced. He mentioned how the transfer portal doesn’t necessarily solve game time issues and he tried to advise some of his teammates on that.
Some left anyway, but Cook is back. He has a dozen career starts and one career interception to his name. He previously lined up next to players such as Elijah Molden and NFL-bound Trent McDuffie, who were secondary pillars. Now it’s his turn.
UW strong safety depth
1) Alex Cook, 6-1, 194, Sr., Sacramento, Calif.
2) Julius Irvin, 6-1, 181, Jr., Anaheim, Calif.
3) Makell Esteen, 6-1, 180, R-Fresh., Hawthorne, Calif.
Behind Cook on our depth chart are Irvin and Esteen, players who have been around.
The son of NFL great Leroy Irvin, Julius was injured early in his career at Montlake before starting last season against Montana and Michigan. He played in all 12 games last season and intercepted a pass against Arkansas State. He must be ready when needed.
Esteen arrived in 2020 as part of a class loaded with four defensive backs. He and cornerback Elijah Jackson are the only cornerbacks left, Jacobe Covington transferred to USC and James Smith left the program. Esteen has only played in one game as a Husky, against Arizona in 2020. He has a new coaching staff to accelerate his growth. Patience will determine where it goes from here.
Conclusion: Cook’s role will be crucial to the Husky comeback. The secondary has undergone more transition than any other position field on this team, with three starters (Kyler Gordon, McDuffie and Radley-Hiles) returning to the NFL and safeties used last season as trading cards. Cook will be asked to help solidify things.
Go to si.com/college/washington to read the latest Husky FanNation stories as they are published.
Not all stories are posted on fan sites.
Find Husky FanNation on Facebook by searching: Husky Maven/Sports Illustrated
Follow Husky FanNation’s Dan Raley on Twitter: @DanRaley1 and @HuskyMaven