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Originally published January 25, 2014 at 4:30 PM | Page modified January 25, 2014 at 8:45 PM

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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

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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.

Keenan Curran

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.

Devante Downs

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

Blue Chip

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.
PlayerPos.HtWtSchool (city)College choice
Drew ClarksonOL6-4275CamasOregon State
Kaleb McGaryOL6-8280Fife
Marcus GriffinDT6-3292Bellevue
Devante DownsLB6-3230Mountlake TerraceCalifornia
Keenan CurranDB6-2185Federal WaySan Jose State
Deion SingletonS6-1175Chiawana (Pasco)
Isaiah Brandt-SimsRB6-0185WenatcheeStanford
Nick MitchellQB6-2175Mount Si (Snoqualmie)Oregon State
Zach EagleWR5-9170CamasEastern Washington
Shane BowmanDL6-4242BellevueWashington
Drew SampleTE6-5235Newport (Bellevue)Washington
Drew LewisS6-2196Eastlake (Sammamish)Washington
Timmy HaehlS6-1190BellevueHarvard
Morgan RicheyOG6-5275Bellevue
Andre DillardOL6-5240WoodinvilleWashington State
Alek KacmarcikLB6-2202WoodinvilleEastern Washington
White chips (83)
The rest of the top 100 prospects in the state.
PlayerPos.HtWtSchool (city)College choice
Drew StockerWR5-10165QuincyNevada
Kevin ThomsonQB6-2175Auburn Riverside (Auburn)UNLV
Reilly HennesseyQB6-3189CamasEastern Washington
Conner BaumannRB6-2230Newport (Bellevue)Eastern Washington
Kilton AndersonQB6-3200Skyline (Sammamish)South Alabama
Josh SmithWR6-3198Cascade (Everett)South Alabama
Patiole PesefeaDL6-2250Foss (Tacoma)Eastern Washington
Terence GradyWR6-5190Kentwood (Covington)Eastern Washington
Reese CarlsonWR6-4190Gig HarborMontana
Cole KarstetterDB5-11170Ferris (Spokane)Eastern Washington
Dave Ungerer IIIAth5-7155PullmanIdaho
E'Lon MackWR5-11188Heritage (Vancouver)Idaho
Asan NeilEverginRB5-8170Timberline (Lacey)Eastern Washington
Kaleb DavisOT6-4255Mountlake Terrace
Jaremy MartinLB6-2240Lynden
Max GrayWR6-0160Arlington
Jordan RoseOT6-6305Freeman (Rockford)
Randin CreceliusOG6-5280Cascade (Everett) Portland State
Monike SarteDT6-1285Fife
Nick FoerstelDE6-3215Tumwater
Brad KimballDE6-3235Mercer Island
Brady BagnallLB6-3230Evergreen (Vancouver) Air Force
Michael DiGenovaLB6-1204Camas
Alex WeberLB6-2225Chiawana (Pasco)
Jake LutonQB6-6220MarysvillePilchuck Idaho
Jonah JordanOG6-2265Mead (Spokane) Eastern Washington
Jarius McDadeDL6-2300O’Dea (Seattle)
Jevin PahinuiDE6-4265Mountlake Terrace
Elisha Pa’agaDL5-10255E. Catholic (Sammamish)
Josh WrightDL6-1220Skyline (Sammamish)
Teague JamesRB5-10185Graham-Kapowsin
Joey ZamoraQB6-3225Chiawana (Pasco)
C.J. LatLB6-0200Lake Stevens
Travis BakkenOL6-6250EdmondsWoodway
Clifton LozanoRB5-7180Chiawana (Pasco)
Henderson BelkWR6-4230Kamiak (Mukilteo)
Chandler NewellOL6-3215Chiawana (Pasco)
Jose JimenezOL6-0235Eisenhower (Yakima)
Mark DeRuyterDL6-0185Chiawana (Pasco)
Evan MikschDL6-3255Lake Stevens
Mitch FettigDB6-0175OlympiaEastern Washington
Andrew SchwietermanDB5-10175Central Kitsap
Leon SiofeleRB5-11210Union (Camas)
Ridge HarmonWR6-0170Eisenhower (Yakima)
Deshon WilliamsWR6-3204Tahoma (Covington)
Mason JohnsonOL6-3309Kentlake (Kent)
Owen TaylorOL6-4290Gig Harbor
J.D. BodenOL6-4300Central Valley (Spokane)
Kayden MaughanOL6-3264Chiawana (Pasco)
Jakob StollDL6-2260Wenatchee
Brandon KaufmanDL5-11220Eastlake (Sammamish)
Tanner PaulyWR5-11175Shadle Park (Spokane)
Nick KiourkasTE6-2204Shadle Park (Spokane)
Pierre Le DorzeQB6-2225O'Dea (Seattle)
Beau ShainLB6-2215Mount Si (Snoqualmie)
Chance RagsdaleRB5-9150Mountlake Terrace
Rayshaun MillerRB5-8165Lincoln (Tacoma)
Trevor MartinWR5-10169University (Spokane)
Alexei OroTE6-3247O’Dea (Seattle)
Mason SchuttQB6-5211Prosser
Tanner GuellerQB6-3225W.F. West (Chehalis)Idaho State
Jack FlorLB6-2210O’Dea (Seattle)
Tate RazorDL6-5215Bellevue Christian
Stuart GillinLB6-2205Walla Walla
Jack NearyQB6-3205Issaquah
Nick StreubelOL6-3312Coupeville
Tommy NelsonWR6-2190Issaquah
Reggie LongOL6-3295Skyline (Sammamish)
Shay DingfelderOL6-1285Issaquah
Jalani PhelpsWR6-4180Lynden
Joey CassanoWR5-1190Auburn Mountainview
JayTee TiuliDL6-4310Federal Way
Kurt CalhounLB6-1215Zillah
Brady WidnerAth6-0175Zillah
J’Maka LoveWR6-0185Lincoln (Tacoma)
Travante RobinsonRB5-8150Jackson (Mill Creek)
Darius PatiWR6-3190Eisenhower (Yakima)
Austin StriplinLB6-3245Sumner
Drew GriffinAth6-1205Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma)
Jack GellatlyRB5-11190Issaquah
Isaiah HolmesDL6-3240Lynnwood
Colin CossetteRB6-0210Kennedy Catholic (Burien)
Letrez JonesRB5-11180Meridian (Bellingham)
The annual Seattle Times chip list is determined by reporter Joshua Liebeskind with input from recruiting experts and high-school coaches.


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