Tough cookie Baker is the Christmas sprinkles on the Oregon recruiting class

Mark Helfrich has his first big win over Chris Petersen.

Bishard “Budda” Baker, the 2014 top football prospect in the Northwest and the #6 athlete in the country, has announced a verbal commitment to the Oregon Ducks.

X-Man: After a junior season in which he and Myles Jack led the Bellvue Wolverines to a third straight undefeated season and a state championship, Bishard “Budda” Baker topped it with 16 more tds and another undefeated championship season as a senior (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times photo).

Head coach Butch Goncharoff and the Bellvue Wolverines have won 54 straight games and 10 of the last 13 Washington State 3A Championships. Baker was instrumental in the last three as a kick returner, running back, receiver and safety. As a junior he scored 23 touchdowns, 14 rushing, 2 on returns, 5 receiving, 2 pick sixes. The 5-9, 174-lb. multi-talented athlete is the reigning state champion in the 100 meters, 4×100 relay, 4×400 relay, 2nd in long jump.  He’ll play wide receiver at Oregon, used in a multiple slotback/receiver/running back/returner role similar to De’Anthony Thomas, Josh Huff and Bralon Addison.

Baker is not only a dynamic athlete with an electrifying ability to make big plays, he’s a leader with a tremendous attitude. Goncharoff told Josh Liebeskind of the Seattle Times,  ”The thing I tell everybody about Budda — every kid loves to play on Friday nights, everybody’s excited. Budda, the best thing about him is you can’t tell the difference between Friday night (and) Monday at 3:15. Practice looks exactly the same. That is rare. That is probably the most rare thing.”

Baker will elevate future Ducks teams with both his play and his approach to the game. Scouts call him the best prospect to come out of Washington in ten years, a span that includes Jack and Lacey Timberline High product Jonathan Stewart. He chose Oregon over Washington, USC and UCLA, cancelling recruiting trips to both the Bruins and the Trojans once he made his decision. The desire to win and compete for national championships was a vital part of it. He also wanted a school where he and his family felt comfortable and he had good academic support.

In his 14-0 senior season the fast, elusive multiple threat rushed 35 times for 600 yards (17.1-yd. average) with 12 tds on offense. At safety, Baker had 59 tackles, three interceptions and three forced fumbles. He also had four touchdowns on defense and special teams as the Wolverines won their sixth straight state title. His stats were suppressed a bit by the dominance of the Bellvue program, sitting out the second half in several games due to blowouts.

This summer Baker was The Opening’s MVP at wide receiver, posting a 4.51 40 and a 35-inch vertical leap in addition to standing out against elite competition.

The Wolverine captain is Mark Helfrich’s 16th commitment in the 2014 class and vaults the Ducks to the top of the PAC-12 rankings. A consensus four-star player, Baker’s been named to the Army All-America team. the 8th high school recruit in this UO class to make an A-A squad, along with Royce Freeman, Tony James, Tyrell Crosby, Jalen Brown, Tanner Crew, Morgan Mahalak, and Arrion Springs.

Along with James, Baker gives the Ducks a pair of shifty, elusive, big-play talents who can grow into the role currently filled by Thomas, who’s highly likely to leave for the NFL, and Josh Huff, who plays the last game of his Oregon career at the Alamo Bowl. He joins Brown as a very dynamic addition to the Oregon wide receiver corps. The Ducks may add an additional big receiver in 6-7 Frank Iheanacho or 6-2 Juco speedster Eric Lauderdale, but they are done in the offensive backfield, having accumulated an array of talent that will rival any class of the last 10 years, a golden age of Oregon recruiting.

Sixteen minutes of junior and senior highlights:


Scouting notes:

Toughness. Electricity. Suddeness.

Doesn’t shy away from contact. Great balance. Shifty, the quick change of direction, the ability to cut without losing speed. Great vision and burst.

Dynamic. The ability to ignite a team with a big play, either from scrimmage or in the return game. Will be great in the multiple role like DAT, Huff, Addison, in the slot, taking a pitch, out on a pattern, returning kicks. An inspirational leader and a tough competitor.

Great enthusiasm for the game. Pound-for-pound physical. Compact and sinewy. Small, but great body composition, good strength in his legs and arms, very cut for a little guy. Has applied himself in the weight room. A serious, dedicated football player, intelligent and grounded, extremely thoughtful and introspective. Considered his recruiting decision very carefully and represented himself with maturity in the media.

Takes a ball thrown directly over his head very gracefully, tracking it in full stride. Difficult to do under the lights in a high school stadium. Tremendous body control and poise. Separates, runs full speed THROUGH the end zone, no cadillacking, very good to see in an elite prospect. Comes from a program with a proud tradition of doing things the right way and providing leadership for younger athletes. A strong sense of respecting the tradition.

Can weave through a defense and run inside. Quick feet, nimble in a tight crease. Accelerates to daylight, cutting and shifting with incredible smoothness.

Tough to bring down with exceptional balance and desire for the goal line. His teammates love him, there’s no sense of a guy who’s hard to play for or the aloof superstar. Very genuine about being part of the corps and playing for the guy next to you.

A safety blitz, and he shoots the gap and sticks his nose in their in the land of the giants, makes the tackle for a loss. Breaks on the ball beautifully, reads the quarterback’s eyes, great closing speed. Ducks nearly always put the dynamic two-way guy on offense, but John Neal has to be feeling wistful–Baker could be a lockdown, tenacious cover guy who would turn the football the other way.

Still, it’s good to have that mentality on your offense. He’ll save three touchdowns a season running down turnovers, and probably cause a couple of double turnovers in his career. Would be a lights out gunner on the punt coverage team. With his speed and tackling ability, he’d down a lot of punts inside the five, and force a bunch of fair catches.

High points the ball in the end zone for a pick. 4.51 40, 35-inch vertical at The Opening this summer, and with his work habits, he’ll get even stronger and faster at Oregon. Jim Radcliffe loves to work with guys who are as motivated and committed as he is.

A run blitz, and he drives the pile and the running back backward. He’s a football player from a hard-nosed program, not a wilty little scatback.

Takes a bubble screen 80 yards for a td. Receives the ball softly into his hands, very smooth transition from catch to cutting upfield, thinking touchdown from the split second he secures the ball. Sets up a block, zooms past the first tackler, two efficient cuts, gone.

Inside running play. Deft spin move. 10 yards after contact. Finishes falling forward.

Stretch play at the goal line. One quick cut inside the tight end. Touchdown. Ball is high and tight. Does everything right fundamentally. A player who listens and applies great coaching in one of the country’s top programs. Tremendous foundation in the game.

170-pound guy out there flattening people. Much bigger competition in the PAC-12, but you get the feeling he’s not going to be rag-dolled by anyone, or back down.

Punt return up the middle. Sheds two tackles, jukes two others, touchdown. Aloha means good-bye.

Really wraps up tackling. Takes the legs out from under a quarterback. Very sure tackler, and quick. Gets into the opponent’s lower body and gets leverage, leads with the shoulder, head up. A playmaker, very determined. 56 tackles playing part-time on defense due to blowout wins in a state champion season.
Quick hitter off tackle. Makes the first guy miss. Makes the other 10 irrelevant. 60-yard touchdown.

He’s at safety, and the opponent runs a bubble screen double pass. Good luck with that. Baker sets up along the hash and fields it like a punt, exactly where he’s supposed to be despite the trickeration. Did I say he was a smart football player? High points the ball in traffic, secures it, neutralizes the threat.

Pick six. Straight up the field. Sometimes he just seems to want it more than anyone else. The kind of player who would will a team to a win with three or four big plays. He’ll have some Saturdays like that, like Josh Huff in this year’s Civil War. Has that outstanding competitive mentality great players have, that difference-making intensity. His high school coach says he practices that way, and players like that are infectious.

From the safety position, great instincts. Walks up and crowds plays like a linebacker, sniffing out screens and inside runs, beating everyone to the ball carrier. Plays with a physical edge that’s rare in a player of any size.

John Neal and Nick Aliotti are probably really hating Scott Frost and Mark Helfrich right now.

Very comfortable fielding punts, which not all great athletes can do. Has relaxed, confident hands. Doesn’t fight the ball.

At 8:47 on the tape, it’s 4th and goal from the 10. They give him the ball off tackle left, and he’s wrapped up at the two. He spins, keeps driving his legs and scores, stronger and more determined than the other guy.

Really reads the play well from his safety spot. Picks up his keys and commits. He’s back-pedaling when he should, attacking at just the right opportunity. Good mix of discipline and aggressiveness.

An insane number of big plays on these highlights. The ball gets tossed to the official, looks for his teammates. Budda Baker will be such a key guy on this team, a player who will represent and stand for the Oregon way. Has the talent, attitude and discipline to be a great college football player.

Honestly? I look at a lot of high school highlight tapes, and this is one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. This kid is a dynamic, electric, game-changing talent without the sideshow. He’s as fast and elusive as anyone in the game, but tougher and smarter than a lot of touted guys who pop off in interviews and mug for the camera.

Two interviews follow below. Baker is an exceptionally mature and thoughtful young man. His mother is afflicted with Krohn’s disease, and he takes his athletic gifts and the opportunities they afford him very seriously. In his commitment announcement he said, 

“First and foremost, I want to thank God for the opportunities he has given me,” Baker tweeted. “I want to thank all of the fans who have supported me for my high school career and I’m glad to say I’m officially committed to the Oregon Ducks.

“I have been believing this for a while but I was taught to not speak until my heart and God tells me too. This was the best choice for me and my family and most of all, it was my choice. Too all kids reading this, never worry about what think of you and your decisions, always go with your heart and my heart took me to the Ducks.”

The newest Webfoot told Liebeskind, “They told me I’m going to have to work for it, which I really liked, They didn’t sell me no B.S. thing, like I would start right away. They told me if I worked for it, the opportunity is there.”


A King TV piece by Dennis Ho on Goncharoff, the coach that has given him such a fabulous foundation in the game: