In Budda Baker’s first few weeks in a Husky uniform, Washington coach Chris Petersen has been careful not to boast too much too soon about the freshman free safety.
Leave the boasting, then, to junior receiver Jaydon Mickens.
“If I was to talk about Budda Baker,” Mickens said, “I would have to talk about Tyrann Mathieu.”
As a Louisiana State safety, Mathieu rose to national attention (and, later, national notoriety) in 2011, when he was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He now plays for the Arizona Cardinals.
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Mickens, unprompted, believes it’s an apt player comparison for Baker, the former Bellevue High School star listed as a starter for the Huskies’ season opener at Hawaii on Saturday.
“He’s not your typical stay-back safety; he’s all over the field,” Mickens said of Baker. “He can cover the slot; he can go to corner; he can stay back — he can do it all.”
At some point, the Huskies might just ask the 5-foot-10, 173-pound Baker to do it all (he did play running back in high school, too). For now, though, he will start only at free safety and on two special-teams units, including as a return man on kickoffs.
Petersen said he believes Baker, even as a true freshman, can handle so much so soon because of “all these special intangibles” he has.
“I think when coaches start getting so excited about a guy, it’s when they start bringing these awesome intangibles — they’re really a good person, they treat their teammates well, they’re so locked in; it’s all the things you talk about,” Petersen said. “And in the time he’s been here, he’s been like that.
“I don’t want to put too much on his plate. It’s going to be hard; this is college football at a different speed, but he’s done a great job since he’s been here.”
Lindquist excited to start, praises Williams
Sophomore Jeff Lindquist, as announced Friday, will make his first start against Hawaii, and he said Monday his improved accuracy and understanding of the new offense probably won him the job over redshirt freshman Troy Williams.
“Obviously it was really close,” said Lindquist, the 6-3, 246-pound former Mercer Island star. “Troy (Williams) is still a stud. Just because I’m starting this game doesn’t make him any less of a player. I’m just excited more than anything. Surprised? Sure, but I’m just trying to keep an even keel. But I’m definitely excited.”
Next week, as the Huskies prepare for their Sept. 6 home opener against Eastern Washington, sophomore Cyler Miles will compete with Lindquist and Williams for the starting job. Miles is suspended for the Hawaii game and missed all of spring ball while suspended, leaving him well behind the pack, Petersen said, in learning the playbook at the start of fall camp.
Since then, Petersen said, “Cyler’s done a really good job. I’ve been impressed with … where he is mentally and really how he kind of runs the show out there when he does get out there. I was very surprised at that. He knew a lot more than I thought he would.”
Hudson, Campbell to start opener
Defensive end Andrew Hudson and receiver DiAndre Campbell, both fifth-year seniors, are listed as starters on UW’s depth chart released Monday. Both players were urged by UW’s previous coaching staff to leave the program after last season — and they were introduced as seniors before the Huskies’ final home game — before being invited back by Petersen and the new coaching staff.
Elsewhere, senior receiver Kasen Williams, coming back from a devastating leg injury last October, is expected to play Saturday.
“There’s no question he’ll be in there,” Petersen said. “I don’t think he’s 100 percent, but I think he can go.”
In UW’s secondary, sophomore Brandon Beaver is listed as the starting rover, with redshirt freshman Jermaine Kelly at the cornerback spot opposite junior Marcus Peters.
Brown remains suspended
Petersen would not elaborate Monday on his dismissal of freshman safety Lavon Washington, a decision announced in a statement Saturday.
“Guys gotta do things right around here,” Petersen said. “It’s been preached from Day One, and if they’re not, we’ll take action.”
Washington is the third player booted from the program since April. In the same statement Saturday, UW announced that junior tight end Derrick Brown had been suspended indefinitely.
“We’ll kind of figure out his deal down the road,” Petersen said.