University of Washington

Big problem for Huskies defensive backs is Stanford’s size

Washington defensive backs (left to right) Myles Bryant, JoJo McIntosh and Elijah Molden have had plenty to smile about this season. On Friday, the Huskies face a big challenge in Stanford and its corps of tall receivers.
Washington defensive backs (left to right) Myles Bryant, JoJo McIntosh and Elijah Molden have had plenty to smile about this season. On Friday, the Huskies face a big challenge in Stanford and its corps of tall receivers. AP

Washington cornerbacks Myles Bryant and Austin Joyner have both seen quite a bit over the last two weeks.

The pair debuted together Oct. 28 in a 44-23 win over pass-oriented UCLA. Bryant and Joyner were steady against Bruins star junior quarterback Josh Rosen. Although Rosen missed the second half with an injury, the Huskies held him to 91 yards and a touchdown. UCLA, as a whole, finished with 170 passing yards.

A week later, Bryant and Joyner did what was needed in a 38-3 win over Oregon and its run-heavy offense.

Friday’s 7:30 p.m. kick at Stanford (6-3, 5-2) provides No. 9 UW (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) a rather sizable challenge for Joyner and Bryant. Five of Stanford’s six leading targets in the passing game feature receivers and/or tight ends who more than 6-foot-2 in height and average 217 pounds.

And for those wondering, Bryant is listed at 5-8 and 180 pounds while Joyner checks in at 5-10 and 182 pounds.

“I think this year we’ve seen all kinds of receivers,” Bryant said. “Big, physical ones. Quick ones. So, I think Stanford, they’re mostly big. We just have to do a good job getting our hands on, being under routes and just playing the ball.”

Stanford’s modus operandi is still to run the ball. Junior running back Bryce Love is proof. He’s rushed 151 times for 1,456 yards, 12 touchdowns and makes a strong case to be the most dangerous offensive player in America.

The Cardinal, as a whole, have accounted for 136 receptions for 1,632 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Huskies coach Chris Petersen said Stanford’s offense presents an unique challenge because of its size, strength and formations that utilize extra linemen.

“It’s a different style run but their whole style is they’re going to pound it but they spread you out, they throw it,” Petersen said. “It’s very much a pro-style offense pass-wise with what you see in the NFL.

“I think their run game is a little bit different and can be different than with you see in the NFL with all those extra (offensive) linemen and those types of things.”

Stanford junior receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who is listed at 6-3 and 222 pounds, leads the Cardinal with 25 receptions for 386 yards and five touchdowns.

He’s followed by another junior in Trenton Irwin, who is 6-2 and 205 pounds. Irwin has 28 receptions for 308 yards and one touchdown.

Stanford also has two tight ends who can also be involved in the passing game.

Sophomore Kaden Smith is listed at 6-5 and 250 pounds. He has 13 catches for 226 yards and a touchdown. Senior Dalton Schultz, who is 6-6 and 242 pounds, has caught 13 balls for 181 yards and two touchdowns.

“I think its still a challenge,” Bryant said of playing larger receivers and tight ends. “Just to keep proving that I belong on the field.”

Having size and knowing how to use is only one facet when it comes to how UW will fare against Stanford.

For all of Stanford’s weapons, there’s still an issue when it comes to getting consistency at quarterback.

Senior Keller Chryst has struggled throughout the year and may have lost his job for a consecutive week.

Chryst has completed 54.2 percent of his passes for 962 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. He was benched last week for the team’s 24-21 loss at Washington State in favor of K.J. Costello.

Costello, a sophomore, was 9 for 20 and completed 45 percent of his attempts for 105 yards and one touchdown against WSU.

UW is third against the pass. The Huskies are allowing less than 105 yards per game. Opponents have only scored five times through the air and have been intercepted on nine occasions.

Ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense, the Huskies have done this while making a few changes on the fly due to injuries.

Both Bryant and Joyner were thrust into starting roles after the team lost starting cornerbacks Jordan Miller and Byron Murphy to either long-term or season-ending injuries.

“I think it’s been a big transition from nickel to corner, but then again, I was working corner all spring and fall,” Bryant said. “So I was prepared for that transition and I think it’s been going pretty well against pass offense and the run offense.

“This week, we’re looking forward to both.”

Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark

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