Watch Washington safety Budda Baker long enough, and the game broadcast starts to sound like one of those commercials on cable promoting a life-changing wonder-product.
Baker with the tackle on the running back behind the line! Baker with the pass deflection! Baker slices, Baker dices! You’ll be saying “Wow” every time you put this safety in the game!
Baker’s hype-man isn’t Vince Offer or Ron Popeil, though. Opposing coaches who have to deal with the Washington junior, like Oregon’s Mark Helfrich, fill that role just fine.
“That’s a great description: He does a bit of everything,” Helfrich said when asked of Baker’s multifaceted role on the Husky defense. “A man-cover guy, a blitzer, a center fielder [to] get depth and make plays on [passing] balls, special teams. He’s a very, very complete player.”
Budda Baker may or may not be able to lift wine stains from your carpet, but he can seemingly do just about anything else. He was all over the field in Washington’s 44-6 deconstruction of Stanford in Week 5, providing run support to keep 2015 Heisman Trophy finalist Christian McCaffrey bottled up, racking up six tackles on the night.
The week prior, he spied explosive ball-carrying quarterback Brandon Dawkins from Arizona. His diligence on the backline produced 10 tackles — and kept the Wildcats from breaking too many big plays, which would have cost the Huskies in an overtime win.
He’s broken up a pass, forced a fumble been in on a sack and made 2.5 tackles for loss on the season. But Baker’s impact on the Washington defense cannot be entirely measured through his statistical output, impressive as it may be.
Like any product on a cable infomercial, you have to see him in action to believe it. The only difference? Baker actually delivers.
He doesn’t simply arrive for showtime, game day, provide a couple of highlight-reel moments, then clock out. Washington head coach Chris Petersen considers the safety a leader of the Huskies’ defense for his day-to-day, play-to-play persistence.
“The one thing about him is he’s just on-point so often,” Petersen said. “That’s how he practices, and that’s how he prepares. It doesn’t matter the tempo we’re going in practice, he is going to show up full-speed.”
Taking an always-on mindset in practice makes for a smooth transition to Saturdays. With Baker, the Washington defense knows exactly what it will get, since there’s never a drop-off or lull.
“It always looks like it’s supposed to look. It shows up in the games, and, well, that’s what he looks like in practice,” Petersen added. “I think that’s a big compliment, because I think there’s not a lot of guys like that. Guys are sporadic. There’s good days, there’s bad days, [but] Budda is very consistent.”
Baker’s versatility will be front-and-center Week 6 when he tries to add another attribute to his long list of qualities: the ability to end a 12-year streak.
Washington travels to Oregon to face a rival the Huskies have not beaten since 2003. The streak looms large over Huskies football, and snapping it Saturday means slowing an explosive offense.
Despite the Ducks’ slow start to 2016, they’re still scoring 40 points per game with an offense loaded at the skill positions.
“They do a great job in space, and they are hard to tackle,” Petersen said of Oregon’s offensive play-makers.
Baker will help contain running back Royce Freeman on the ground, just as much as he aids in covering a deep and talented Oregon wide-receiving corps.
The scene is set for Baker to have a big performance. It’s the kind of live demonstration a product pitchman would kill for.