With talented depth returning this year and a late start on recruiting for Chris Petersen, chances for many freshman to find significant time on the field this season is sparse. Yet some roster spots are still wide open. Although Petersen started late, he finished strong with his first class. Here are three newcomers that may find themselves making an early impact on the 2014 Washington football season.
Budda Baker (5-foot-10, 180-pounds) S
Easily the most exciting signing so far in the Petersen era, Baker helped solidify an already surprisingly strong recruiting class for two reasons: First, not only was Petersen able to keep the most talented player in the state of Washington home, he stole him away from the Ducks. Any slight on the Ducks is received warmly in my heart. Secondly, Baker fills a need that the Huskies desperately need help at.
Slightly undersized for a college safety, Baker makes up for it with his speed and willingness to hit. More importantly, Baker is a proven winner. At Bellevue high school Baker won three consecutive 3A state champions, starring on both offense and defense. I’m sure Petersen was able to lure Baker away from Oregon with the promise that he would see action on both sides of the ball. While defense will still be his primary focus, Baker could light up Saturday’s next fall with his dazzling playmaking ability. Like his former teammate and UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, Baker should make an instant impact on the Washington football team.
Dante Pettis (6-foot-1, 175-pounds) WR
Ranked the #49 wide receiver in the nation by rivals.com, Pettis should ring a bell with college football fans. The cousin of former Boise State standout Austin Pettis, Dante Pettis chose to follow his brother’s lead and sign with Petersen. Now it will be up to the coaching staff to see if they can cash in on the Pettis family’s excellent genetics a second time. Damore’ea Stingfellow’s future still up in the air, Kasen Williams coming off an injury, and a surplus of small, speedy receivers, are all contributing factors to Pettis’ possibility of seeing early snaps. If he buys into what Petersen is selling, Pettis could find early success while the receiving corp still finds its form along with the quarterbacks. Pettis looks to be more of an impact player later in his Washington football career, but for now, dawg fans can speculate about the possibility of Petersen producing two NFL caliber receivers from the same family.
Naijiel Hale (5-foot-11, 180-pounds) CB
Defensive back proved to be the most heavily addressed position in Petersen’s first recruiting class. For that reason it should not be surprising to see true freshman taking snaps at multiple positions. Hale figures to find himself well within the mix. Good closing speed and sound tackling form (surprisingly good for a high school corner) highlight what Hale can bring to Washington football early.
With Jermaine Kelly and Marcus Peters locking down the outside, Hale will be fighting for the nickel corner spot most likely. However, it won’t be won without stiff competition from the peers of his class. Darren Gardenhire (6-foot, 180-pounds), Sidney Jones (6-foot-1, 170-pounds), and Brandon Lewis (5-foot-11, 180-pounds) will all fight for early playing time along with Hale in the fall. Whether it is Hale or any of the other talented recruits on the roster, the huskies success this season may very well rely on the emergence of young players in the defensive secondary.
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