Nearly without exception, one of two things would happen on the rare occasion an opposing quarterback dared target Trent McDuffie in coverage last season.
- Completion and immediate tackle
No, seriously: McDuffie was targeted only 36 times in 296 coverage snaps as a third-year player in 2021, per Pro Football Focus. Only 16 of those passes were completed. None were touchdowns. There was a long gain of 19 yards, and the other 15 completions combined to net 92 yards. The average pass completed against McDuffie gained just 6.9 yards — good for fourth in FBS among the 452 cornerbacks with at least 150 coverage snaps — and receivers of those 16 completions combined for a total of just 25 yards after catch.
This is another way of saying McDuffie’s 2021 film is … not that exciting, honestly, which in this instance is a compliment. Washington didn’t defend the run very well last season, and McDuffie teamed with Kyler Gordon to form one of the top cornerback duos in the nation. So opponents didn’t have to throw the ball all that often against the Huskies, and when they did, they certainly weren’t going to throw it toward McDuffie, whom the Kansas City Chiefs selected with the No. 21 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Revered by coaches and teammates for his voluminous film study, technical obsession and attention to detail, McDuffie leaves Washington as perhaps the Huskies’ most pro-ready defensive back since Budda Baker — mentally and physically — which is saying something, considering the number of players they’ve had drafted in the secondary in the years since.
Dane Brugler on Trent McDuffie (No. 2 CB, No. 12 overall prospect in The Beast)
McDuffie might not hit ideal size thresholds for some (listed at 5-foot-10 1/2, 193), but he is an easy sell in draft rooms because he has outstanding athleticism, intelligence and is well-schooled in various techniques. He has a high ceiling and a high floor and should start as an NFL rookie.
Top college highlight
Washington’s 2020 season lasted only four games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but McDuffie did manage to turn in one of the most memorable plays of the year. After the Huskies had erased a 21-3 halftime deficit against Utah to take a 24-21 lead in the final minute, Utes quarterback Jake Bentley lofted a pass toward a receiver along the right sideline. McDuffie tracked it the whole way and timed his leap to come down with a game-sealing interception, then sprinted all the way to the end zone with several teammates for a lengthy celebration. Fans weren’t allowed at games that season, but McDuffie made a point of creating some atmosphere on a night to remember.
What you might have missed
Washington has never been shy about using its best players on special teams, and the Huskies took that to an extreme by having McDuffie — an All-America candidate at cornerback — begin each of the last two seasons as the team’s primary punt returner. He popped for a 45-yard return against Oregon State in his first career attempt in 2020, showing the speed that made him a 10.82-second 100-meter sprinter in high school.
McDuffie hurt his ankle on a punt return in UW’s third game of the 2021 season, missed one game and didn’t return any more punts after that, but he was always game for it. He said in 2020: “I’m comfortable back there. It’s definitely something that I can do really well. I just think my decision-making and my ball-carrier vision when I’m out there is something that I do very well at.”
McDuffie was among the first UW football players to publicly announce a name, image and likeness deal last year, joining several other athletes in promoting YOKE Gaming. But his response when asked about NIL at Pac-12 media day only reinforced his focus on football. “We’re college athletes. We’re here to play football. If you want to make your business grow, you’ve got to do it on the field. At the end of the day, our goal is to go to the NFL. That’s where the real big money’s going to come from. If deals do come, I’m happy, and I hope guys can do it, but we’re here for a reason, and that’s to play football and win games.”
(Photo: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)