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Defense dominates Spring Preview to wrap up early practices

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Defense dominates Spring Preview to wrap up early practices

Alex Cook and Brandon McKinney celebrate Cook's pick-six during one-on-one drills before the team period at the UW Spring Preview. 

True to form, and true to the last couple of years under head coach Chris Petersen, the Washington defense put the clamps on the offense in the annual Spring Preview.

Throughout the practice, the defense got to the quarterback, forced turnovers, and only gave up three touchdowns late during the live practice periods.

In perhaps his best showcase this spring, junior safety Isaiah Gilchrist, one of the hopeful replacements for departing playmakers JoJo McIntosh and Taylor Rapp, ended the spring with two interceptions. His second came off the arm of Jacob Sirmon, who threw into double coverage and never saw Gilchrist, who took it to the house for the first official touchdown of the day.

The junior is coming off of two seasons with sparing playing time, but is in line for much more this upcoming season. Having fully learned the defense, Gilchrist has been tasked with playing at safety, corner, and nickel this spring already.

“You just have to trust the process,” Gilchrist said. “These coaches always believe in you, and always want to put you in the best position to succeed. Knowing that, you start making plays, which is awesome to have happen.”

Next time him at the other safety spot was Brandon McKinney, who got his first career start in place of an injured Rapp in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State last season. In line for a bigger role alongside Gilchrist, McKinney started much of the spring at safety and used his Rose Bowl experience as fuel for improvement this season.

“It was phenomenal,” McKinney said. “Growing up, seeing the Rose Bowl every year, I just use that for motivation to do better. I’m trying to play in bigger games than the Rose Bowl.”

The official score of the Spring Preview favored the defense 38-21, as the offense managed just three late touchdowns. Now with a couple months off before fall camp begins in August, defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake and the Huskies feel confident in their new-look secondary and defense.

“The more positions that our DBs can know, we know for sure that when injuries happen we have some confident guys that can step right in and make plays,” Lake said. “We’re going to continue to bounce guys around in the fall.”

Other notes

- Keith Taylor won the “Best Hands in the Room” award for the spring, hauling in six in 15 practices. The junior had never won the award to that point, and was “smiling from ear-to-ear,” according to Lake, after the final whistle at the Spring Preview today.

- Peyton Henry had a strong day, finishing a perfect 5-of-5 on field goals during team periods, and it looked like he made all other attempts in warmups. His longest make was from 40 yards from the right hash.

- While the defense had a great day, the offense did not. Jacob Eason finished 7-of-12 for just 42 yards and a touchdown. The junior transfer was sacked four times, and couldn’t find a lot of rhythm or room to throw down the field. His best throw might have been the last throw of the Preview, finding Kamari Pleasant on a wheel route out of the backfield. Jake Haener, also taking first-team reps, finished 9-of-16 for 61 yards and a long of just 10 yards with an interception.

Reach Sports Editor Alec Dietz at Twitter: @AlecDietz

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