SEATTLE – Four key players who helped lead Washington to the Pac-12 championship and an appearance in the College Football Playoff announced their decisions Tuesday to forego their senior seasons and enter the NFL draft.
Wide receiver John Ross confirmed his decision on Monday. Safety Budda Baker, defensive tackle Elijah Qualls and cornerback Sidney Jones confirmed on Tuesday they are all leaving early after leading Washington to its first conference title in 16 years.
“These four players have been a big part of the progress this program has made during their time here,” head coach Chris Petersen said in a statement. “We wish them all the success in the world as they pursue their professional goals.”
The decisions are not surprising as each player is projected to be an early-round selection after standout final seasons.
Baker was a second-team AP All-American after leading the Huskies with 71 tackles while grabbing two interceptions. Baker started all 41 games during his three years at Washington and projects as a nickel cornerback in the NFL.
Yet Baker’s biggest impact on the Washington program may have been his decision to attend the school as part of Petersen’s first recruiting class. Originally a verbal commit to Oregon, Baker’s decision to stay at home proved critical in building the Huskies program under Petersen.
“I am not only excited to turn the page to a new chapter in my life, but I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for our program. UW is back on the map and I’m proud to say I helped with it,” Baker wrote in a lengthy statement posted to Twitter .
Jones started 39 of 41 games during his three seasons, while Qualls was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection this season. Both are considered among the top prospects at their respective positions in the draft.
Ross became a star during his junior season, proving he was fully healthy after missing the 2015 season with a major knee injury. Ross boosted his NFL prospects by leading the team with 81 receptions for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was voted the AP Pac-12 player of the year and was a second-team AP All-American.
“There really are no words meaningful enough to describe my time playing at the University of Washington,” Ross said in a statement on Twitter .
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