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Hearing from Washington Defensive Backs, McCutcheon and Shaw

After Washington’s seventh practice on Tuesday, we neared the halfway point of Spring practice on Montlake. We have seen a lot of development in a short time with this football team. Much of that is attributed to the players buying into the new coaching staff, the change in energy from the coaching staff, and the competition between the players on a daily basis. We had the opportunity to hear from two of the Washington defensive backs after practice as well as safeties coach Vinnie Sunseri. He spent a few years with Steve Belichick coaching the New England Patriots, and they now work together for the Washington Huskies. There’s a lot of intrigue with how this defensive backs group is coming together. We had a chance to speak to Dyson McCutcheon and Jordan Shaw after Washington’s seventh practice of the Spring.

Dyson McCutcheon’s Commitment to the ‘W’

McCutcheon was the first player to announce he would be returning to Washington after initially entering the transfer portal amid the coaching change in January. He’ll be a junior this fall in his fourth year at Washington, playing for his third coaching staff. McCutcheon said that he initially entered the transfer portal to evaluate his options. He entered before he knew who the new coaching staff would be, but said his decision was quickly made up after Jedd Fisch and his staff were named

“Once I knew who the coach was here, it was kind of a no-brainer.” McCutcheon was recruited by Fisch and cornerbacks coach John Richardson out of high school to attend Arizona. That previous relationship with the two made the decision easy. McCutcheon said he talked with Richardson after the coaching change, and knowing what Fisch had done in his three seasons in Tucson, he knew it was the right fit for him to stay at Washington. He also said that getting his degree from Washington was important to him, and he wanted to stay in Seattle to finish school.

Competitive Bond Between Defensive Backs

McCutcheon is playing mostly at the nickelback spot thus far in the Spring. It’s a position that Washington is calling the “STAR.” But there’s been a good amount of rotation at the position and around the entire defensive back room this spring. McCutcheon and Shaw both play at STAR and we’ve also seen a lot of cornerback rotation. Adding in the other talented transfer, Ephesians Prysock, it seems like every position is a battle right now. I asked McCutcheon how the defensive backs are competing and how that room is coming together.

“We feel great, we have a lot of guys that are going to compete and definitely can play on Saturdays.” He said that he thinks that’s the best thing for the room as a whole. “Everyone’s working their butt off because we know that the guy behind us, the guy next to us, he can go too.” We’ve seen that from the sidelines as well. When a defensive back makes a big play, the other defensive backs and even the coaches are right there to celebrate. When the next defensive back gets his turn in the rotation, he is fighting to make the next big play. This Washington defensive backs group is competitive, the defensive backs coaches bring high energy, and everyone is pushing everyone to be better.

Coaching Adjustment

There doesn’t seem to be a significant change in the scheme on defense with the new coordinator. McCutcheon said that Belichick has his own techniques and terminologies as far as alignments and assignments. But for the most part, a lot of the defense is the same as it was under Chuck Morrell. “We had the same coverages in the last defense, it’s just different terminology.” But it’s the coaching style that seems to be the biggest difference. We’ve observed that from the sideline, and McCutcheon confirmed it when talking to him. “[Belichick] is much more ‘go with the flow’” as a defensive coordinator than Morrell. McCutcheon said that one style isn’t better than the other, but the change in energy sparks the defense in a different way. 

Belichick stands behind the defense, looking on and calling plays into the defensive huddle with the new helmet communication technology. He points out coverages and helps direct his team to their assignments. Richardson and Sunseri are the ones that bring the energy. McCutcheon said that Sunseri is, “Very into it… he has some fire, you can tell he wants to be out there himself.” He said the biggest thing with Sunseri is how aggressively he coaches. 

Jordan Shaw’s Smooth Entry on Montlake

Sophomore defensive back Jordan Shaw made the same move that Michael Penix Jr. did following the 2021 season. He transferred from Indiana to Washington, but Shaw did it by way of Arizona. After playing in four games against Big Ten competition, Shaw had 13 tackles, a pass breakup, and a half of a sack as a true freshman. He originally committed to Fisch and the Arizona Wildcats, but followed him to Washington amid the coaching changes. I asked him what that transfer process was like and how he was adjusting to the new defense coached by Belichick.

Shaw said, “I feel like the transition is really smooth because I already had a bond with all the coaches.” Shaw committed to Arizona on December 11th, just six days after entering the portal following his freshman season in Bloomington. He was with that staff in Tucson for nearly a full month prior to re-entering the transfer portal. Shaw said the coaching staff feels like a family and that was the reason he followed them up to Seattle in January. He described his relationship with the coaches as a chemistry that extends beyond the football field. 

At practice this Spring, the smooth transition for Shaw has been on display. He has come down with a handful of interceptions, forced several pass breakups, and has rotated in with the first-team defense on multiple occasions. Shaw has been playing mostly at that STAR position. He described it as a position where you have to, “Be patient, know your right reads, know everybody’s assignment, what side to line up on, and really be physical.” That physicality has been on display. Pads have been popping, footballs are getting poked out and tipped by the Washington defensive backs, and the group has been making big plays.

Photo Credit: Nick Lemkau Last Word on College Football


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