UW co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake on Rapp: "He picked up the defenses as quick as any freshman I’ve seen."

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Taylor Rapp graduated from Bellingham’s Sehome High early and enrolled at the University of Washington in January, eager for an opportunity to play as a freshman for the team he grew up rooting for.

Then, in just his second spring practice with the Huskies, a setback: Rapp had a hairline fracture in his left hand, which could have spoiled his hopes of playing this season.

Instead, Rapp “didn’t miss one beat” in the spring, UW coach Chris Petersen said. A strong fall camp then earned Rapp a spot at free safety on the Huskies’ two-deep for the season opener against Rutgers, and last Saturday he made his first start against Portland State.

“When we got him here, he was so smart. I mean, it was amazing how fast he picked everything up,” Petersen said.

Added co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake: “He picked up the defenses as quick as any freshman I’ve seen.”

Rapp, listed at 6-feet, 202 pounds, has 10 tackles through three games, adding more quality depth to a secondary that many already considered one of the best in the nation.

“He’s a really good tackler, plays hard,” Petersen said. “It’s all these characteristics that when you boil it down, you want a smart player that’s physical, that’s a good tackler, that just has a really high football IQ.”

Last year, the Huskies employed a nickel defense about 75 percent of the time, and they’ve started all three games this season that way. Junior cornerback Darren Gardenhire started as the fifth defensive back against Rutgers; senior safety Brandon Beaver started against Idaho; and Rapp started against Portland State in part because Lake said he matched up well with the Vikings’ run-oriented offense.

“We felt it was a matchup this game that we thought he’d excel at … and it looked like he played pretty well,” Lake said after the game.