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He's Back! John Ross Among the Many Standouts at the Husky Combine

John Ross tops the 40 yard dash leaderboard in his return to Husky competition.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The creation of the Husky Combine, which just completed its third annual event, was an important innovation introduced to the Washington Football program when Chris Petersen and his staff took over.  This event had the combined effect of motivating athletes during the offseason, of creating a new way for fans to engage with the program and to put "hard numbers" on the record for players who want to create resumes for future professional opportunities.

All of those benefits, while on full display, took a backseat to the story of the day.  Redshirt junior John Ross stole the show yesterday.

The star UW receiver made a triumphant return to competition yesterday by, quite frankly, stunning the UW fanbase by posting a blistering 4.25 second hand-timed 40 yard dash.  He handily posted the best time of the day beating second-place Budda Baker by a full tenth of a second.

Ross has been rehabbing for the past 12 months from a knee injury that he suffered early in 2015.  While he has continued to be active in social media, he's mostly conducted his recovery outside the view of the public.  His stellar showing yesterday, which also included top 5 finishes in the vertical jump and 3-cone drill, was a clear declaration that the lightning quick receiver is ready to build off a true sophomore campaign where he established himself as, arguably, the most dangerous playmaker in the PAC.

The standout performance by Ross was not the only big story emerging from yesterday.  Star safety Budda Baker, who was a bit disappointed in his performance at last year's combine, also stood out.  Baker ranked second in two events - the Pro Agility Drill and the 40 yard dash.  Even more impressive to those who attended the event was how much more muscle Budda has packed on to his frame.

If Budda can play at 184 while maintaining his 4.35 speed, an All PAC 12 season may well be in the offing for a player whose football skills are unquestioned but who has struggled to keep up with the physical demands of a long season.

Kevin King, the official workout warrior on the Husky roster, had his third straight strong showing at the combine.  King, who is probably best described as "co-starter" on a Husky defense that is increasingly using a fifth DB in its base defense, finished

King won two events and ranked second in two others.  This builds on a 2015 combine where King ranked first in one event, second in another and fourth in one other.  The senior has consistently demonstrated an ability to improve every season setting a standard for other Huskies to strive towards.

Here are some other observations compiled from social media and beat writer reports:

  • David Ajamu, now five months removed from his own ACL injury, was spotted on the field competing in the combine.  A return to form by the veteran UW tight end will not draw much attention from the mainstream media, but would be incredibly significant for a Husky offense that wants to feature a two TE attack.  Ajamu's presence lets UW rotate the speedy Darrell Daniels and the beefy Drew Sample in a way that maximizes the versatility of position.
  • Senior Trevor Walker, often overlooked as a competitor to fill the Brian Clay vacancy, made his own return from injury, ranking fifth in the vertical jump.  His presence amps up the competition in what is indisputably the strongest position group in the program.
  • Other strong performances were posted by WR Dante Pettis, CB Jordan Miller, TE Darrell Daniels, RB Jomon Dotson and RB Lavon Coleman.  Each of these participants are hoping that their offseason work will contribute to more meaningful impact in the season ahead.
  • Some other participants who caught my attention by showing up on leader boards include walk-on TE Connor Griffin (third - and faster than John Ross - in the 3 cone drill), incoming freshman Taylor Rapp (top 5 in pro agility drill), and Ben Burr-Kirvin (top 5 in 3-cone).

Unfortunately, many of the other activities that were conducted as part of strength and conditioning coach Tim Socha's "mid-term exams", such as the weight-lifting activities - were held outside the view of the public and were not reported on.  Regardless, the accomplishment of the competitors in the exercises that were on display is encouraging to Husky fans who are looking forward to a competitive spring camp.

The Huskies will officially open the spring on March 28th with the Spring Event scheduled for April 23rd.