University of Washington

Husky cornerback Kyler Gordon now has technique to match athleticism

Kyler Gordon is getting close to some revenge.

With fall camp winding down, Gordon is in the lead for Washington’s coveted “Best Hands in the Room” trophy, which is given three times a year to the defensive back with the most interceptions after spring practice, fall camp and the regular season.

In the spring, junior Keith Taylor finished with seven interceptions to Gordon’s six — but the totals came with some controversy. During one of the final practices, Gordon appeared to intercept a ball off a tipped pass. Head coach Chris Petersen called it an interception, but a jury of defensive backs voted 8-3 that the fall hit the ground first.

“Kyler was not happy about it,” defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said with a grin after the spring preview in April.

But after the Huskies’ practice on Monday, Taylor took a moment to work through some mental calculations before declaring that Gordon is currently in the lead for the fall title with five interceptions. There are several players close behind him with four.

More important than any trophy, though, is what Gordon’s interception totals reveal about his progress.

“He’s making a lot more plays, getting more interceptions now,” Taylor said. “Last year, it was just all (pass breakups) and he would be a step close. Now he’s out there making those plays.”

Gordon, a redshirt freshman, entered UW’s program as a four-star cornerback in the Class of 2018. He was considered by 247Sports composite to be the No. 1 player in the state of Washington and the No. 12 cornerback in the country.

When he arrived, Gordon’s eye-popping athletic ability was no surprise. He has a background in gymnastics and dance, and senior defensive back Elijah Molden said he’ll occasionally show off jumps and flips for UW’s defense. At this year’s Husky Combine, Gordon registered the top vertical jump at 42.5 inches. Other highlights from his day: the No. 3 broad jump (10’05”), the No. 2 three-cone drill time (6.52 seconds) and the No. 2 pro agility time (3.87).

So while his athleticism was never in question, his technique needed some work. And that’s where his teammates and coaches have seen the biggest difference between 2018 and this offseason.

“He’s always been athletically gifted ever since he first came in,” Molden said. “So now I think his confidence is growing.”

Gordon has put in the effort to get there. Last fall camp, after every practice, Taylor watched him stay behind to work on his technique. When he wasn’t putting in extra time on the field, Lake said he was studying film “like a vet.”

Now, Gordon is reaping the benefits. In the five fall practices open to the media, he played with the first-team defense alongside Taylor at cornerback. The two look like the most likely candidates to replace last year’s starters, Byron Murphy and Jordan Miller. After practice on Monday, Molden said Gordon’s increased familiarity with the playbook has allowed him to get some reps at nickel back, too.

“He’s grown as a player, really,” Taylor said. “I’m excited to see what he does this year.”

The Huskies redshirted all of their freshmen last season but Gordon did play in four games, starting with the loss to Oregon in Week 7. Even though Gordon and fellow defensive backs Julius Irvin and Dominique Hampton made limited appearances last season, Lake was already looking forward to getting them on the field consistently.

Molden is excited to watch that happen, too.

“(Gordon’s) going to make plays,” Molden said. “Coach (Lake) is going to play people who make plays and a lot of people in that room make plays.”