Bellevue’s Budda Baker is tops in Washington’s class of 2014
Bellevue star Budda Baker is the only Seattle Times blue-chipper on the list of 100 best football recruits in the state. But don’t forget about Federal Way’s Keenan Curran and Mountlake Terrace’s Devante Downs.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Blue chip: Budda Baker
Height, weight: 5-10, 177
Position: Safety/returner/running back
High school: Bellevue
Key stat: Scored four touchdowns on defense and special teams in 2013.
Honors: AP Washington state player of the year; U.S. Army All-American Bowl participant
College: Undecided (final two: Washington and UCLA).
Quote: ‘I think he’s in the conversation for the best we’ve ever had.” – Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff
The run play is designed to go left, but the defensive end gets off his block immediately, almost as soon as Budda Baker takes the handoff. Without hesitation, Baker shifts to his right to avoid the defender and accelerates.
He’s not 5 yards downfield and if you freeze the YouTube video, it’s easy to see a linebacker has an angle — at the very least, he’ll be able to bottle Baker in a gauntlet of linemen. All of a sudden, there is no angle. Baker finds another gear and tears past the defender, who looks like a matador surprised he was not gorged by a bull, racing into the secondary.
It’s evident from there that no one will come close to touching the Bellevue star in the final 40 yards to the end zone.
The blurry highlight video is all one needs to see to know why Baker is so special. It’s the athleticism, the speed and the knack for making big plays — and that’s just on offense. As a safety, Baker is ruthless in pursuit and unafraid to lower his shoulder.
It’s the reason so many of the top college programs covet his services. Baker, who verbally committed to Oregon on Dec. 20 before reneging on that decision Jan. 17, still has to decide between Washington and UCLA. He will most likely make his decision known on National Signing Day at a ceremony at Bellevue High.
Baker’s natural talent, combined with his insane work ethic on the practice field, makes him by far the best football player in Washington’s high-school class of 2014. Attention will follow him wherever he decides to play next.
Keenan Curran and Devante Downs will not get the same star treatment when they set foot on college campuses. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting about them, though.
Curran, who played at Federal Way, verbally committed to San Jose State, where he will presumably play defensive back. That alone, though, is enough to leave some scratching their heads.
“Maybe he went to camp (at Washington) and didn’t run as fast as he should of or could of; maybe he had a bad day testingwise, but off of film he’s every bit as good as some of the players I’ve seen Washington offer,” one college assistant coach said.
That same assistant said he firmly believes Curran is talented enough to play in the Pac-12 and raved about his athletic ability, speed and length.
The 6-foot-3 Curran also played quarterback for Federal Way, something that could have hindered his recruiting. Curran isn’t a natural quarterback and had to be talked into the position when he was a sophomore. But it’s the skills he showed under center that make him special, Federal Way coach John Meagher said.
“He’s exactly what we want in our system ... high football IQ, decision maker, athlete and when he has the ball in his hands, he can make things happen,” Meagher said.
Downs has not played a snap of football in more than a year, but that did not stop Pac-12 programs from recruiting the Mountlake Terrace senior.
After tearing his ACL in June, Downs spurned offers from Stanford, Washington, Nebraska and Arizona State to sign with California. He was also selected to the U.S. Army All-American Game, even though he could not participate due to his injury.
So what makes Downs so special?
“He has a rare combination of just being able to do, at his size, things that usually smaller players do,” Mountlake Terrace coach Tony Umayam said. “He has a nice athleticism, has a really high level (of) overall football skill that really makes him a special player.”
It is still undecided what side of the ball Downs will play at California, but he has made an impression both in the backfield and at linebacker. He rushed for 1,271 yards and 24 touchdowns during his junior season, and made 63 tackles, including 17 for a loss and seven sacks.
Downs is rated as a four-star prospect by ESPN. Scout.com lists him as the No. 6 fullback in the country. At 6-2 and 225 pounds, Downs certainly is a physical specimen. The one problem he could face, though, is finding a position that suits him.
“He’s definitely got the size and skill set to play at the next level, but it’s a matter of what he’s going to play,” Scout.com recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman said.
Huffman sees Downs as more of a short-yardage or blocking back, which doesn’t necessarily fit into the offensive schemes of California coach Sonny Dykes, who likes his running backs to be a factor in the passing game. Huffman believes he could be a little too big for outside linebacker because he doesn’t have the explosiveness.
“But the thing he does have going for him,” Huffman said, “with his size, I think his position versatility helps him, and then it should be a matter of how well does he come back from the knee injury.”
List of top 100 Washington state high school football recruits: Class of 2014
Budda Baker, Ath, 5-10, 175, Bellevue
|Red chips (16)|
|These players are considered capable of starting in a major conference such as the Pac-12 or starring in a lesser conference. Players are not necessarily listed in order of ranking.|
|Player||Pos.||Ht||Wt||School (city)||College choice|
|Drew Clarkson||OL||6-4||275||Camas||Oregon State|
|Devante Downs||LB||6-3||230||Mountlake Terrace||California|
|Keenan Curran||DB||6-2||185||Federal Way||San Jose State|
|Deion Singleton||S||6-1||175||Chiawana (Pasco)|
|Nick Mitchell||QB||6-2||175||Mount Si (Snoqualmie)||Oregon State|
|Zach Eagle||WR||5-9||170||Camas||Eastern Washington|
|Drew Sample||TE||6-5||235||Newport (Bellevue)||Washington|
|Drew Lewis||S||6-2||196||Eastlake (Sammamish)||Washington|
|Andre Dillard||OL||6-5||240||Woodinville||Washington State|
|Alek Kacmarcik||LB||6-2||202||Woodinville||Eastern Washington|
|White chips (83)|
|The rest of the top 100 prospects in the state.|
|Player||Pos.||Ht||Wt||School (city)||College choice|
|Kevin Thomson||QB||6-2||175||Auburn Riverside (Auburn)||UNLV|
|Reilly Hennessey||QB||6-3||189||Camas||Eastern Washington|
|Conner Baumann||RB||6-2||230||Newport (Bellevue)||Eastern Washington|
|Kilton Anderson||QB||6-3||200||Skyline (Sammamish)||South Alabama|
|Josh Smith||WR||6-3||198||Cascade (Everett)||South Alabama|
|Patiole Pesefea||DL||6-2||250||Foss (Tacoma)||Eastern Washington|
|Terence Grady||WR||6-5||190||Kentwood (Covington)||Eastern Washington|
|Reese Carlson||WR||6-4||190||Gig Harbor||Montana|
|Cole Karstetter||DB||5-11||170||Ferris (Spokane)||Eastern Washington|
|Dave Ungerer III||Ath||5-7||155||Pullman||Idaho|
|E'Lon Mack||WR||5-11||188||Heritage (Vancouver)||Idaho|
|Asan NeilEvergin||RB||5-8||170||Timberline (Lacey)||Eastern Washington|
|Kaleb Davis||OT||6-4||255||Mountlake Terrace|
|Jordan Rose||OT||6-6||305||Freeman (Rockford)|
|Randin Crecelius||OG||6-5||280||Cascade (Everett)||Portland State|
|Brad Kimball||DE||6-3||235||Mercer Island|
|Brady Bagnall||LB||6-3||230||Evergreen (Vancouver)||Air Force|
|Alex Weber||LB||6-2||225||Chiawana (Pasco)|
|Jonah Jordan||OG||6-2||265||Mead (Spokane)||Eastern Washington|
|Jarius McDade||DL||6-2||300||O’Dea (Seattle)|
|Jevin Pahinui||DE||6-4||265||Mountlake Terrace|
|Elisha Pa’aga||DL||5-10||255||E. Catholic (Sammamish)|
|Josh Wright||DL||6-1||220||Skyline (Sammamish)|
|Joey Zamora||QB||6-3||225||Chiawana (Pasco)|
|C.J. Lat||LB||6-0||200||Lake Stevens|
|Clifton Lozano||RB||5-7||180||Chiawana (Pasco)|
|Henderson Belk||WR||6-4||230||Kamiak (Mukilteo)|
|Chandler Newell||OL||6-3||215||Chiawana (Pasco)|
|Jose Jimenez||OL||6-0||235||Eisenhower (Yakima)|
|Mark DeRuyter||DL||6-0||185||Chiawana (Pasco)|
|Evan Miksch||DL||6-3||255||Lake Stevens|
|Mitch Fettig||DB||6-0||175||Olympia||Eastern Washington|
|Andrew Schwieterman||DB||5-10||175||Central Kitsap|
|Leon Siofele||RB||5-11||210||Union (Camas)|
|Ridge Harmon||WR||6-0||170||Eisenhower (Yakima)|
|Deshon Williams||WR||6-3||204||Tahoma (Covington)|
|Mason Johnson||OL||6-3||309||Kentlake (Kent)|
|Owen Taylor||OL||6-4||290||Gig Harbor|
|J.D. Boden||OL||6-4||300||Central Valley (Spokane)|
|Kayden Maughan||OL||6-3||264||Chiawana (Pasco)|
|Brandon Kaufman||DL||5-11||220||Eastlake (Sammamish)|
|Tanner Pauly||WR||5-11||175||Shadle Park (Spokane)|
|Nick Kiourkas||TE||6-2||204||Shadle Park (Spokane)|
|Pierre Le Dorze||QB||6-2||225||O'Dea (Seattle)|
|Beau Shain||LB||6-2||215||Mount Si (Snoqualmie)|
|Chance Ragsdale||RB||5-9||150||Mountlake Terrace|
|Rayshaun Miller||RB||5-8||165||Lincoln (Tacoma)|
|Trevor Martin||WR||5-10||169||University (Spokane)|
|Alexei Oro||TE||6-3||247||O’Dea (Seattle)|
|Tanner Gueller||QB||6-3||225||W.F. West (Chehalis)||Idaho State|
|Jack Flor||LB||6-2||210||O’Dea (Seattle)|
|Tate Razor||DL||6-5||215||Bellevue Christian|
|Stuart Gillin||LB||6-2||205||Walla Walla|
|Reggie Long||OL||6-3||295||Skyline (Sammamish)|
|Joey Cassano||WR||5-1||190||Auburn Mountainview|
|JayTee Tiuli||DL||6-4||310||Federal Way|
|J’Maka Love||WR||6-0||185||Lincoln (Tacoma)|
|Travante Robinson||RB||5-8||150||Jackson (Mill Creek)|
|Darius Pati||WR||6-3||190||Eisenhower (Yakima)|
|Drew Griffin||Ath||6-1||205||Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma)|
|Colin Cossette||RB||6-0||210||Kennedy Catholic (Burien)|
|Letrez Jones||RB||5-11||180||Meridian (Bellingham)|
|The annual Seattle Times chip list is determined by reporter Joshua Liebeskind with input from recruiting experts and high-school coaches.|