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Washington Huskies expected to give freshman cornerbacks a shot against UCLA

With two veteran cornerbacks sidelined, Washington Huskies nickelback Myles Bryant (5) is emerging as a team leader on defense. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)
With two veteran cornerbacks sidelined, Washington Huskies nickelback Myles Bryant (5) is emerging as a team leader on defense. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)
By Adam Jude Seattle Times

The timing could not have been much worse.

The No. 12 Huskies lost starting cornerback Jordan Miller to a season-ending broken ankle in last Saturday’s 13-7 defeat at Arizona State. Washington was already playing without its other starting cornerback, Byron Murphy, who could miss several more weeks with a broken foot.

The Huskies (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12), idle this week, will likely turn to one of their true freshman cornerbacks — Keith Taylor or Elijah Molden — to start against UCLA on Oct. 28. The Bruins are 3-3 this season (1-2 Pac-12) entering Saturday’s game vs. Oregon, but junior QB Josh Rosen leads the Pac-12 (and ranks second nationally) with 392.3 yards passing per game.

Rosen, no doubt, will test UW’s young corners — and test them often.

“They’re the No. 1 pass offense in the Pac-12, so that’s a challenge we want,” UW sophomore nickelback Myles Bryant said Wednesday. “I think we’re going to step up to it and do a good job.”

Rosen, a potential top-five pick in the NFL draft, has thrown for 2,354 yards with 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season.

The Huskies have not allowed a passing touchdown in four Pac-12 games this season.

“I think we’re pretty confident,” Bryant said. “We think anybody can step up and play and we know there won’t be any drop off between the next person and the previous starter.”

Junior Jomon Dotson, a converted running back, will be in the mix at cornerback too, but the Huskies are expected to turn to either Taylor or Molden with Miller out.

Taylor, a 6-foot-2, 186-pound native of Long Beach, California, has seven tackles and one pass breakup in six games this season. Molden, 5-10, 186 pounds and out of West Linn, Oregon, has 12 tackles and one pass breakup in seven appearances. Both have been regulars on special teams, and co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake has consistently praised both this season.

“I think they’re developing pretty well,” Bryant said. “They know the ins and outs of our defense, they know the techniques and I think Coach Lake has done a good job of preparing them for that role. If they have to step up, they’ll be ready.”

Sophomore Austin Joyner has played well the past four weeks in Murphy’s place. Murphy, a redshirt freshman, is not expected to recover in time for the UCLA game.

“I think Byron is going to come back with an even bigger chip on his shoulder and play with more of an edge,” Bryant said. “So I’m excited to see that.”

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