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Washington cornerback suspended after last week’s sideline tantrum

SEATTLE — Washington’s struggling secondary took another hit Monday.

Marcus Peters, the Huskies’ standout junior cornerback, has been suspended for this week’s game against Illinois after his sideline tantrum during UW’s 59-52 victory over Eastern Washington on Saturday, multiple sources told The Seattle Times.

The suspension of Peters, projected by some as a potential first-round NFL draft pick, further stresses a young and vulnerable defensive secondary that ranks 117th in the nation in pass defense.

Peters did not practice with the team Monday morning.

Peters is the eighth player UW coach Chris Petersen has either suspended or dismissed from the team since February. At his weekly Monday afternoon news conference, Petersen declined to specifically address Peters’ status.

“Our discipline will stay in-house,” he said.

EWU quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. threw for 475 yards and seven touchdowns against the Huskies (2-0) on Saturday. Washington’s opponent this week, Illinois, features a classic prostyle quarterback in Wes Lunt, who threw for 456 yards and three touchdowns in a victory over Western Kentucky last week.

“They throw the heck out of the ball,” Petersen said about Illinois. “From where we are right now, you’ve got to believe they’re probably feeling pretty good about themselves.”

Without Peters, the Huskies finished the EWU game with senior reserve Travell Dixon and true freshman Sidney Jones at cornerback, neither of whom had appeared in UW’s season-opening victory at Hawaii. Jones, in his college debut, forced a fumble on kickoff coverage in the first quarter against EWU, and Dixon drew strong reviews after replacing Peters.

Washington has also tried redshirt freshman Jermaine Kelly and true freshmen Darren Gardenhire and Naijiel Hale at cornerback in the first two games, with mixed results.

“We have a vet out there with Travell Dixon. That guy knows how to play big-time college football,” UW junior receiver Jaydon Mickens said after Monday’s practice. “So he’s going to step up for those guys and he’s going to be that leader back there.”

Petersen said after the game it was an “easy“ decision to bench Peters, who was flagged for a “stupid” penalty in the third quarter when he head-butted an EWU receiver. The unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty came immediately after a sack by UW’s Shaq Thompson on third down, which would have forced EWU to punt. Instead, the penalty gave the Eagles a first down, and they scored a touchdown eight plays later to take a 45-44 lead late in the third quarter.

After drawing the penalty, Peters was seen arguing with assistant coaches on the UW sideline. He also threw his gloves and helmet to the ground.

Petersen has a team rule that helmets are not supposed to touch the ground.

“I’m just not into stupid penalties,” Petersen said after the game. “It’s not even an issue whether the guy’s going to play or not if they don’t conduct themselves right. If you don’t play like we want you play, you’re not playing. It’s not even a decision for me; it’s easy.”

Peters was also suspended for the first quarter of UW’s Fight Hunger Bowl in December for an unspecified reason.

The 6-foot, 190-pound junior from Oakland, Calif., led UW with five interceptions and 14 pass breakups in 2013, earning second-team all-Pac-12 honors.