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Originally published Friday, April 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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UW Football | Huskies defense could see overhaul in secondary

First-year Washington defensive coordinator Ed Donatell says one of the foundations of his philosophy is try to confuse the offense as much...

Seattle Times staff reporter

First-year Washington defensive coordinator Ed Donatell says one of the foundations of his philosophy is try to confuse the offense as much as possible.

"Our intent is to do the unexpected," he said earlier this spring.

Last year, the unexpected would have meant simply stopping someone. The Huskies set dubious school records for things like highest average yards per game (446.4) and total points allowed (411).

But Donatell is leaving few options unexplored in his attempt to turn things around, including giving the secondary — which last year allowed 27 passing touchdowns for another unwanted school record — an extreme makeover.

Starting positions are far from settled, but in last Friday's scrimmage, the Huskies at times had an entirely new first-unit secondary — free safety Nate Williams, strong safety Victor Aiyewa and cornerbacks Mesphin Forrester and Quinton Richardson.

Williams and Aiyewa are sophomores who have broken through this spring to emerge as potential starters. The two have taken advantage of a few injuries to state their cases. Senior free safety Jason Wells has been out all spring while rehabbing a knee injury suffered last fall, and senior strong safety Darin Harris has missed big chunks of the spring with a knee injury. Wells is expected to be fine for the start of fall camp and again compete for a starting spot.

Forrester started all 13 games last season at safety, most at strong safety, but with the emergence of Aiyewa and Williams he was moved to cornerback. Richardson, a redshirt freshman from O'Dea, began his Huskies career at safety but also has moved to cornerback, a switch that started late last season. Forrester and Richardson are each listed at 205 pounds, bigger than any other Huskies cornerback, giving UW a more stout presence there.

"We're just looking to get our best players on the field and try to line up to be as physical, as good, as talented as possible on the field," UW coach Tyrone Willingham said of the move of Forrester.

Richardson and Forrester have embraced the change.

"At safety I had to learn a lot of adjustments and checks and things like that that I just wasn't ready to learn and get down," he said. "I felt corner was a little bit easier being on an island by myself, just me and the receiver."

UW loses three-year starter Roy Lewis from its cornerback corps of a year ago, but the rest return, including part-time starters Byron Davenport, Matt Mosley and Vonzell McDowell Jr. That indicates there will be some fierce competition in the fall.

Garcia hoping for miracle

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Center Juan Garcia, who suffered a Lisfranc injury in his left foot — essentially a complicated sprain — said Thursday he has opted not to have immediate surgery in hopes that the foot will begin to heal on its own.

If that happens, he said there is a chance he could return to play next season, possibly as early as the first month.

"I went for the miracle healing," Garcia said.

Garcia said the foot will be in a cast and he will be on crutches until May 23 when doctors will re-examine the foot for signs of healing. If the foot hasn't begun to heal, he said surgery will be necessary, which would mean no chance of playing next season.

"It's all or nothing," he said.

He said doctors have told him there is a 40 percent chance the foot will begin to heal on its own.

NOTE

• The spring game is Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Willingham said there will be a 15-minute running clock with stoppages for out-of-bounds and timeouts. He said the roster will likely be split into two even teams to make for a competitive game, though he said the format could change. Quarterbacks will be off-limits to contact.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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