CHRISTIAN CAPLE

Caple: Eventually, UW Huskies’ Davon Banks gets noticed

Sep 6, 2023, 1:29 AM | Updated: Sep 7, 2023, 10:22 am

UW Huskies Davon Banks...

The UW Huskies' Davon Banks attempts to tackle Damien Martinez of Oregon State on Nov. 4, 2022. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

SEATTLE — Give Jimmy Lake some credit for the UW Huskies’ relative spree of pass breakups in their season opener. Will Harris, too. They were effectively the only college coaches who noticed Davon Banks, and even they didn’t see him until it was nearly too late.

AP Top 25: UW Huskies up to No. 8, Colorado debuts at No. 22

Banks was, after all, a victim of strange circumstances. Injuries interrupted his sophomore and junior seasons at San Jacinto (Calif.) High. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed his senior season — a five-game schedule, eventually — until the spring of 2021, long after that year’s recruiting classes had been finalized. He had precious little film to show college coaches, and his listed size of 5-11 and 184 pounds was not going to leap off the page.

Graduation nearing, Banks figured he’d play JUCO ball, likely at Cerritos College in Norwalk, or maybe grab a walk-on spot somewhere.

“It was very frustrating,” Banks said after Tuesday’s practice, “but I have some people in my corner telling me to never let up and just keep going. It got me to this point.”

He played his senior season, starring on both sides of the ball while winning Mountain Pass League MVP honors. Banks snagged an interception and broke up four passes in five games at cornerback, caught 11 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver and also returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

Proof of Banks’ athleticism already existed; as a junior, he set a school record with a 10.78-second 100-meter dash, won league titles in both the 100 and 200, and leaped a league-best 6 feet, 6 inches in the high jump.

Harris, then UW’s defensive backs coach, asked Banks to attend the annual summer camp at University of Redlands — where the Huskies first watched Banks as a sophomore — and saw what he needed to see. In June 2021, a day or two after Banks had graduated from high school, he joined a group call with his parents, his high-school coach, Lake and Harris, and received the scholarship offer that eventually brought him to Saturday’s big performance against Boise State.

Now a third-year sophomore, Banks still is appearing suddenly, demanding attention after others had soaked up so much of it. He came off the bench to break up four passes against the Broncos, three of those coming on third downs, one of them nearly an interception.

It was easy to forget about him this spring, as he recovered from a shoulder injury that cut short his redshirt freshman season. Jabbar Muhammad transferred from Oklahoma State. Elijah Jackson shot up the depth chart with a strong spring. Thaddeus Dixon, a junior-college transfer, was among UW’s spring standouts. Conversations about the Huskies’ new-look secondary didn’t often include Banks, who watched from the sideline as his teammates competed for reps.

Once camp started, though, Banks returned healthy and began playing his way into depth-chart consideration, even if Jackson appeared to have a starting job sewn up. And when Jackson came off the field Saturday, it was Banks lining up in his place — and challenging Boise State’s receivers on crucial downs.

If Banks has one regret, it’s this: “I just wish I could have caught the pick, man. I wish I had only three PBUs and an interception, but I’m going to try harder this week.”

Do the Huskies have a cornerback controversy? Hard to say. Jackson’s athletic upside is apparent, and his size — 6-1 and 191 pounds with long arms — is exactly what coaches want at cornerback. He has a vertical leap of more than 40 inches and gamely battled UW’s talented receivers throughout the spring and preseason camp. It seems unlikely coaches would switch starters after a single game, no matter Jackson’s two pass-interference penalties and struggles in coverage.

Plus, UW’s coaches say Jackson made more plays than you might think.

“It was great to be able to see Davon Banks at the point of attack a few more times than E.J., and him being able to make some plays,” co-coordinator William Inge said. “I think there were also some really good things that E.J. did, that no one really got to see. We’re definitely pleased with how those guys are playing, and it also shows a tribute to some of the depth aspects that we’re able to build at some specific positions, when you have guys who can come in and be able to make the plays that they’re supposed to make.”

UW coach Kalen DeBoer said of Jackson on Monday: “There’s things we could have done to maybe help him out a little bit better, where it looks maybe a little bit rough on his end on a play or two, but he’s counting on someone in another spot to help him, too. It isn’t just on one person.”

It’s nevertheless easy to wonder whether coaches might give Banks more run against Tulsa on Saturday, considering how little playmaking ability the Huskies’ cornerbacks showed a year ago. Injuries were a part of that, and Banks struggled, too, perhaps thrust into a larger role than he was ready for, though he also flashed potential with an impressive interception against Arizona State.

His season — 233 snaps in nine games, per Pro Football Focus — ended after he suffered a shoulder injury on a tackle attempt against Oregon State.

“It was a learning experience for me,” he said. “That’s what I really think of it. If I could go back, shoot, I’d do it again. It really helped me and gave me something to look at, to really work on during the offseason.

“I just feel like I’m more comfortable. I know what I’m going to get, knowing the splits of the receivers and stuff like that.”

Banks notes the obvious: “I’m not an ideal size for a corner. I’m not 6-2, 200 pounds.” But he makes up for his smaller stature, he says, with “speed and physicality.”

When he hits a receiver, he said, “you can probably feel 200 pounds, even though I’m not 200 pounds.”

After one of his pass breakups on Saturday, Banks mimicked the sheathing of a sword, as if he had just completed a successful duel. He’s not sure where that came from. “I see everybody do it, so I just put that in my little bag of tricks,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ve got some different ones coming soon.”

Muhammad describes Banks as “really goofy,” and also marvels at his preparation.

“Being in the film room, watching extra film — he’s really smart,” Muhammad said. “He knows the playbook really well.”

On Monday, Banks tweeted three images of his sword-sheathing celebration, with the accompanying text: “Ima Just Show Y’all This Year, Cause I Hate To Talk.”

That’s true enough. Banks typically declines interview requests, though he did speak to reporters on Tuesday.

You may get to know him better soon enough.

This article was originally published at OnMontlake.com, the new home for Christian Caple’s full UW Huskies football coverage. Subscribe to On Montlake for full access to in-depth UW coverage.

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