Chris Petersen has not even coached a game with the University of Washington, yet his presence is already paying big dividends for the Huskies on the recruiting road. Washington had a pretty solid recruiting class coming into Tuesday night — then they received their biggest signing so far.
Bellevue’s Budda Baker announces he will attend the University of Washington
— 710 ESPN Seattle (@710ESPNSeattle) February 5, 2014
The top recruit from the state of Washington Budda Baker has committed to play football for Petersen and will sign his letter of intent in a ceremony at Bellevue High School on Wednesday morning. Baker is ranked as the fifth-best safety in the country according to Scout.com. He is also the fourth four-star recruit to sign with Petersen joining quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels from San Jose, offensive tackle Kaleb McGary from Tacoma and cornerback Naijiel Hale from Bellflower, CA.
Baker was originally committed to the University of Oregon before backing out of that commitment last month. After re-opening his recruitment process, he narrowed his final decision down to Washington and UCLA. The last time that Washington was able to keep the top in-state product at their school was in 2011 when wide receiver Kasen Williams from Skyline High School committed.
Baker played his high school football for Butch Goncharoff at Bellevue High School just seven miles east of the University of Washington where he excelled on both sides of the ball and returning kicks. He has stated that he would prefer to play on the defensive side of the ball for Petersen but also have an opportunity to run some plays on offense like his former Bellevue teammate and current UCLA star Myles Jack.
The addition of Baker is huge for the Huskies as it will fill an immediate need in the defensive backfield; Washington is losing both starting safeties Sean Parker and Will Shamburger to graduation. He finished the season with three interceptions, three forced fumbles and four defensive or special teams touchdowns. Those stats would have been significantly higher had he played into the second half of his games, but usually he would be pulled due to Bellevue dominating their games.
The only knock on Baker is his size at 5-foot-9, though his athleticism should make up for his lack of height. If Baker needs to find any inspiration that he can make it to the next level despite his size all he has to do is look a few miles to the west. Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas just won his first Super Bowl patrolling the defensive backfield at 5-foot-10.
Washington’s defense will already be very strong as they are returning seven of the top nine tacklers from last season including junior middle linebacker John Timu, sophomore outside linebackers Shaq Thompson and Cory Littleton as well as junior linemen Hau’oli Kikaha and Danny Shelton. As dangerous as the defense was last year under Justin Wilcox they stack up to be even more lethal this season.