The candidates are beginning to line up to succeed Washington’s Budda Baker and become the top Pac-12 safety for 2017.
Budda Baker is off to the NFL after three terrific seasons as one of the cornerstones of Washington’s rise into a league champion. The contenders to supplant him as the Pac-12’s top safety, a DB as effective against the run as the pass, are an eclectic and young crew with considerable long-term potential. Stanford’s Justin Reid, Utah’s Chase Hansen and Baker old teammate in Seattle, Taylor Rapp, are most likely to take the baton and elevate to new heights in 2017.
Top Returning Pac-12 Safeties
5. Marvell Tell III, USC
Now at the halfway point of his Trojan career, Tell is eyeing fulfilling the promise of a player who arrived from Pasadena as a can’t-miss prospect. He started every game at free safety as a true sophomore. And at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, with the agility and athleticism of a wide receiver, the ceiling remains high. But it’s time to start producing at a higher level after chipping in with only 43 tackles, two stops for loss and an interception in 2016.
4. Jaleel Wadood, UCLA
Wadood is a veteran of 31 career starts, a particular plus for a secondary looking to replace Fabian Moreau and Randall Goforth. Wadood has been named to the All-Pac-12 Team in each of the last two seasons, second team in 2015 and honorable mention a year ago. Despite being only 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, he flies out of the secondary with tenacity and reckless abandon. Wadood is one of the Bruins’ physical and emotional catalysts, ranking third on last year’s team with 76 tackles.
3. Taylor Rapp, Washington
How impressive was Rapp in his debut out of Sehome (Wash.) High School? He found a way to distinguish himself on a unit that also included Sidney Jones, Budda Baker and Kevin King. Rapp is the future on the back end in Seattle, earning Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year as a 10-game starter. He was also named MVP of the Pac-12 Championship Game for returning one of his two interceptions for a touchdown. In the 6-foot, 202-pound Rapp, the Huskies feel they may have another Baker, a tough and heady DB who becomes the quarterback of the defense.
2. Chase Hansen, Utah
As quarterbacks-turned-safeties go, the Utes are absolutely delighted with the transition of Hansen so far. He only switched sides of the ball a little over a year ago, yet still managed to rack up a team-high 90 tackles, 7.5 stops for loss, three interceptions, nine pass breakups, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles in 2016. Hansen is an athletic 6-foot-3, 216-pounder who’ll be in an even better position to produce in Salt Lake City now that he has a full season of defense behind him.
1. Justin Reid, Stanford
Reid is on the tarmac and ready to blossom into one of the nation’s best safeties. He cracked the lineup in 2016, turning 57 tackles and seven pass breakups into honorable mention All-Pac-12. This year, Reid will take the next step, and just in time as the Cardinal looks to replace veteran stalwarts Dallas Lloyd and Zach Hoffpauir. Reid, whose older brother Eric plays for the San Francisco 49ers, is a fluid 6-foot-1 and 198-pound athlete, with the intangibles to rise fast as a junior.