Following on the heels of John Ross’s announcement yesterday, three more Husky underclassmen today declared their intentions to enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
DT/DE Elijah Qualls, S/CB Budda Baker and CB Sidney Jones will enter their NFL after standout junior seasons with the Washington Huskies. Based on current rankings from a variety of sources, each of these Huskies is almost certain to be drafted. Jones shows up in most analyses as a first or second round lock with opinions on Baker and Qualls ranging anywhere from first to third day selections.
We’ll have more anlayses in the coming days about the individual circumstances of each of these UW stars. Needless to say, each player has made an indelible mark on the both the fortunes and the culture of the Washington program.
Qualls, like John Ross, was one of the Sark recruits who helped usher in the change in program philosophy and “opted in” to the Chris Petersen way of running things. His commitment and work ethic under the new regime served as a leadership-by-example moment for all of the other players who also had to go through the transition. On the field, his athleticism and versatility in manning every position on the line made him a terror to gameplan against. His best case in the NFL is a Michael Bennett type of player.
Budda Baker was the first “mega-talent” that Chris Petersen was able to attract to UW. First recruited to UW by Sarkisian, Baker originally committed to Oregon. He changed his commitment to the hometown Huskies only after Chris Petersen was hired. Landing Baker was a signal to high school recruits, area coaches and boosters alike that not only was Petersen committed to retaining local talent but that he was serious about attracting high level talent.
Sidney Jones was the classic under-the-radar recruit who shined once given a platform. He was originally a Utah commit before being recruited by Petersen and coach Jimmy Lake. Once the coaches were able to see him in action, he became a starter from almost day one. Jones played bigger than his frame suggested and was excellent in his technique both as a cover corner and in supporting run defense. He continued the legacy of great corner play that was handed off from Desmond Trufant and Marcus Peters before him. Who he hands the mantle to now remains to be seen.
Here is the full text from today’s press release from the UW:
Four Washington football players – safety Budda Baker, cornerback Sidney Jones, defensive lineman Elijah Qualls and wide receiver John Ross – have opted to forgo their senior seasons and enter their names in the 2017 NFL Draft.
"These four players have been a big part of the progress this program has made during their time here," said UW head coach Chris Petersen. "We wish them all the success in the world as they pursue their professional goals."
The Huskies completed a 12-2 season in the College Football Playoff semifinal last Saturday at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Baker, from Bellevue, Wash., was a consensus first-team All-America selection as a true junior in 2016. He led the Husky defense with 71 total tackles and 10 tackles for a loss. He also notched three sacks and two interceptions for a defense that led the Pac-12 in both scoring and total defense. Baker started all 41 games of his three-year career at the UW
Jones was a three-year starter (39 of 41 games) at cornerback who led the UW (or shared the lead) in interceptions as a freshman and sophomore. As a junior in 2016, the Diamond Bar, Calif., product earned second-team All-America from the Football Writers and Sports Illustraed, as well as first-team honors from scout.com. He notched three interceptions with six additional pass break-ups in 2016.
Qualls, from Petaluma, Calif., is a fourth-year junior, having redshirted in 2013. A two-year starter, he earned first-team All-Pac-12 in 2016, recording 38 tackles and five tackles for loss. FOX Sports named him second-team All-America in 2016.
Ross, also a fourth-year player, came back from injuries that cost him the 2015 season to record one of the most successful seasons by a wide receiver in UW history. His 17 touchdown receptions were second-most in both Husky and Pac-12 history, earning him second-team AP All-America as well as first-team honors from ESPN and scout.com. The Long Beach, Calif., native also played cornerback during his Husky career and returned a school-record four kick returns for touchdowns as a Husky.