University of Washington

Myles Bryant leads competitive Huskies secondary into fall camp

Jimmy Lake speaks after Day 1 of fall camp

Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake speaks after the Huskies completed Day 1 of fall camp.
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Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake speaks after the Huskies completed Day 1 of fall camp.

Myles Bryant knows what it can look like from the outside. That’s why he’s so anxious for fans to see what’s happened to Washington’s secondary.

Or rather, what hasn’t happened.

The Huskies lost both their starting cornerbacks — Jordan Miller and Byron Murphy — and their starting safeties — Taylor Rapp and JoJo McIntosh — from last year’s team that won the Pac-12 and lost to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Miller, Murphy and Rapp were all selected in the NFL Draft. McIntosh signed as an undrafted free agent.

A drop-off for UW’s daunted secondary would be understandable. Maybe even expected. But when Bryant was asked at Pac-12 media day what he was most excited for fans to see this season, his answer was the consistency.

“Really just see how we keep guys coming in,” he said. “Hopefully if we impress people this year, we can impress them four years down the line, five years down the line. We’re trying to get a long line of DBs so we can get up there with the (schools) they say are DB-U.”

To make sure that happens, Bryant has adopted a new role among the Huskies’ defensive backs. Last year, all eyes were on the seniors when something went wrong. Now, the younger players are looking to Bryant, the senior, for guidance. Juniors Elijah Molden and Keith Taylor have seen their roles shift, too.

For the most part, Bryant said he’s enjoying shaping the next generation. With so many starting jobs on the line, everyone from Bryant to defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake has commented on how competitive the group has become.

Those battles have helped Bryant get to know his teammates, particularly the incoming freshmen. Competition, he said, reveals character.

“It can also get stressful,” Bryant said. “Just the fact that a lot of times when things go badly they kind of turn around to you. That’s the price you got to pay when you’re trying to take on a leadership role.”

Molden started learning from Bryant shortly after he arrived at UW. Bryant and Rapp, he said, were the most cerebral guys in the room. They preached seeing the whole defense and knowing what plays were coming based on formations.

Even now, years later, Molden finds himself looking to Bryant on occasion. He called him the old man of the group, the “head honcho.” Still, Molden has more experience than most of the secondary, which means his responsibilities have changed. He calls it giving back.

“People say the more you coach, the more you learn,” Molden said after practice on Friday. “First of all, it’s a reminder to yourself and then you got to backup what you’re coaching and what you’re telling the young guys. It’s definitely helped me as a player.”

Even though UW lost four starters, Bryant was quick to point out that the Huskies aren’t completely lacking in experience. Bryant, Molden, Taylor and Brandon McKinney all saw extensive playing time in 2017. Isaiah Gilchrist played in three games last season after seeing time in eight in 2017.

The veteran players will combine with three highly-touted redshirt freshmen — Julius Irvin, Kyler Gordon and Dominique Hampton — and a talented group of true freshmen to create one of the most intriguing position battles of the fall. And the standard, Bryant said, won’t change. Lake has it written on the board in the defensive backs’ room: Be the best. It’s a mantra the secondary takes seriously.

“Whether that be our individual drills or if we’re lifting together or if we’re playing paintball or both, it’s just be the best that you can be,” Bryant said. “That kind of trickles down to everybody.

“And then if you’re if you’re a guy who is in the room, the guy not working or kind of laid back, people are going to give you a side eye and that side eye is going to make you get up off your butt and try to emulate what everybody else is doing. I feel like just that standard that we have has gotten us where we are.”

But despite the fierce competition, what Bryant appreciates most about the group is its unselfishness. None of the players attempt to separate themselves with private training or workouts. It’s a collective effort.

“I feel like those guys, at the end of the day, they’re doing everything for the team,” Bryant said. “So if they want to work out, they’re inviting guys to come work out with them. There’s no selfish standpoint coming forward.”

As for Bryant, he has a few goals in mind for his senior season. He wants to continue the Huskies’ defensive backs’ legacy, and he wants to complete some of the big plays that just slipped through his fingers last season.

Most of all, though, he just wants to enjoy it.

“I feel like that’s all I can do,” he said. “There’s going to be good moments. There’s going to be bad moments. Hopefully the good outweighs the bad. Kind of just taking the process from where I started to where I’m at now. This college thing isn’t forever.”

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