SEATTLE (AP) -Tyrone Willingham tries to be especially careful about who he starts at quarterback and cornerback, two of the most visible positions on the field.
A pair of freshmen will start in those positions when Washington opens its season on Friday night at Syracuse.
Jake Locker starting at quarterback is no shock. The multitalented redshirt freshman has been groomed for the starting job from the time he set foot on the Washington campus.
The surprise is at cornerback, where true freshman Vonzell McDowell is slated to start. McDowell had been competing with walk-on sophomore Cory Nicol for the job.
But Nicol stunningly quit the team over the weekend, handing the position to the freshman.
``I've always tried to say you want to be very careful about those two positions because the nature of the visibility of the position. .... Everybody has the opportunity to see their mistakes,'' Willingham said. ``Their laundry is out there in the public all the time.''
The departure of Nicol leaves an already depleted Washington secondary paper-thin. Senior Roy Lewis was locked in at one cornerback position long ago, and the other spot was expected to be filled by junior college transfer Jordan Murchison.
But Murchison was arrested and jailed earlier this month for failing to show up for a July 16 arraignment on a second-degree assault charge. Murchison is still listed on the team roster, but not participating in any activities.
UCLA transfer Byron Davenport was expected to find a starting spot in the secondary, but has been slowed all month by a hamstring injury. Willingham said Davenport is day-to-day, and may or may not travel to Syracuse.
``It's terribly unfortunate. I thought Cory was happy here, had found a home here,'' Lewis said. ``He definitely came in and made plays and proved he can play. He was definitely in a spot to contribute to the team, I think immediately.''
The secondary is the biggest question for Washington's defense. Junior Jason Wells and senior Mesphin Forrester are the starting safeties, but the backups at all four secondary positions are very inexperienced.
``I have no worries right now,'' Wells said.
As for Locker, the talented quarterback is preparing to play in his first game since winning the Washington Class 3A state title in December 2005 as a senior at Ferndale High School. Locker prepared for games last year after starting quarterback Isaiah Stanback was lost for the season because of a foot injury, but knew it was unlikely he would see any action.
Locker has barely been hit since his final high school game. His only live game action came in a scout team scrimmage at the end of last season.
Now, Locker is trying to contain his anticipation.
``It's hard to even find words to explain it. It's been a while since I've played,'' Locker said. ``We had a really good fall camp and there's a lot of good energy through our team right now. I'm just looking forward to getting on that plane and kicking off.''

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