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Day 19: Which Husky has the Most Interceptions?

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Less than three weeks away, friends. To celebrate, let's see who will lead the team in interceptions this year. Marcus Peters had 3 picks last year in the short time he played. Can this year's leader do better?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

In 1968, Husky defensive back Al Worley set a record that still stands to this day.  He recorded a whopping 14 interceptions that year, achieving the feat in only a 10 game season (Louisville's Gerod Holliman actually tied the record last season, but did so over 13 games).  While double digit interceptions in a season is very unlikely, there are some play makers on this Husky Defense who can snag the ball before opposing receivers have a chance.

2014 Interception Leaders

Name

No.

Yards

TD

Marcus Peters

3

0

0

Sidney Jones

2

22

0

Travis Feeney

2

89

1

John Timu

2

98

2

Shaq Thompson

1

36

1

John Ross

1

0

0

Budda Baker

1

44

0

Kevin King

1

0

0

Of the 13 total interceptions last season, the Huskies lose over half (7) to graduation or injury.  Who will step up?  Will it be someone on last year's list, or will a contender emerge from out of nowhere?  Like most trying to predict future statistics, I will take into account not only the player's ability, but their role on the defense.  Here are my top 4 contenders:

Option #1: Budda Baker

Soph FS

All roads go through Budda. Only a sophomore, it feels like he's already the team's best and most indispensable player. He's a leader on and off the field, a playmaker, and a great student; an OKG.  While the official stats only list 1 interception for Baker (his beautiful one handed snag against Oklahoma State), he nearly had 2 more.  Against Cal, he made another great play anticipating the ball perfectly after it was tipped, and returning it a good 30 or so yards.  The play was called back because of a penalty that was no fault of his.  Against Georgia State, a ball bounced off a receiver's hands, and before Budda could snag it, John Timu stole politely plucked the ball from Budda's grasp and took it to the house. Time and time again Budda Baker demonstrated excellent instincts and ball hawking abilities, as just a freshman.  He'll be asked to cover a lot of ground in the back end of the defense, so he'll have every chance to get 3, 4, or more interceptions this year.

Option #2: Sidney Jones

Soph CB

Sidney Jones was thrust into action last year after Jermaine Kelly's injury and quickly established himself as a player with a very bright future.  Like Budda Baker, he's just a sophomore, but showed a lot of promise during his true freshman season.  His two interceptions against Arizona last year showed his tremendous ball skills, almost looking like a receiver when he came down with the ball.  He clearly has the ability, but will teams throw to him and give him the chance?  He's only a true sophomore, so maybe another year away from being a true shut down corner, ala Marcus Peters and Desmond Trufant in their final years as Dawgs.  He'll most likely be targeted less than whoever starts opposite him, and the best corners usually don't get the most interceptions.

Option #3: Travis Feeney

RSr. LB

On his day, Travis Feeney is a one man wrecking crew. He gets his hands on passes, gets into the backfield, and punishes opposing teams with his physicality and tenacity. Standing at nearly 6'4" Feeney is one of biggest players on the Washington defense, and this video shows how that length can break up passing lanes.  It's always been consistency and injuries with Feeney, and the hope is that he can put together a full healthy season during his senior year.  So, he's got the ability, but will his role on the defense allow him to intercept a lot of passes?  I'm not convinced.  The biggest job on the defense this year is replicating last season's ferocious pass rush, and reports out of spring practice indicate that the coaches are giving everyone a look at the "BUCK" position, especially Feeney.  If you recall, Haouli Kikaha did drop back into coverage a decent amount, but his primary role was rushing the quarterback. Feeney will have some coverage responsibilities, but will they be enough to be an interception machine at linebacker?

Option #4: Darren Gardenhire

Soph CB

Could Darren Gardenhire explode onto the scene and shock us all?  He's only a sophomore who saw limited time last season, mostly on special teams, but he's going to be seeing a lot of the field opposite Sidney Jones this year.  Another of the talented group of freshmen DBs who saw a lot of action last year, he had a great spring and by DB Coach Jimmy Lake's count, had the most interceptions of any player in the secondary during spring camp.  Since we haven't seen Gardenhire play that many snaps as a true CB, it's hard to project how well he will fare against Pac-12 receivers.  He will likely have more opportunities than anyone on the defense to pick off passes, it is simply a matter of how ready the 2nd year player from Long Beach is to make plays.

The Verdict

Budda Baker.  It has to be him, right?  He's got the best combination of both skills and opportunity.  As we saw last year with Shaq Thompson, this coaching staff will put a lot on the plates of their most talented players, who are also smart enough to understand all their assignments and vast responsibilities.  We all saw the kind of season Shaq had, and Budda could be on that same path.  He nearly had 3 interceptions as a true freshman while he continued to get better each and every game.  There's every reason to believe he'll be even better and improve on his numbers from last year.  There's certainly cases to be made for the other 3 players.  Feeney can make his fair share of "splash" plays, including interceptions, but his role on the defense might limit that ability.  He also isn't the best in coverage, even for a LB.  Sidney Jones is nearly at Budda Baker's level in terms of ball skills, but he probably won't get thrown to enough to have a big interception season.  Darren Gardenhire is an intriguing candidate but I just haven't seen enough of him yet to think he can do it.  Call it, Budda Baker leads the Husky Defense with 4 interceptions.