NCF On The Trail: Bishard Baker

Signing day wrap: Pac-12

February, 5, 2014
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While it was a terrific day for the Pac-12 overall, USC stole the signing day spotlight on Wednesday, hitting for the cycle in landing its top four targets.

The day began well for new coach Steve Sarkisian, as three-star cornerback Lamont Simmons (Jacksonville, Fla./Raines) faxed over his signature, but that was only an appetizer for the Trojans. With 19 scholarships available this year -- NCAA sanctions limited the Trojans to just 15 scholarships in this class and USC was able to roll four unused rides over from the 2013 class -- Simmons took the class to 16. Left on the board were a trio of Southern California ESPN 300 prospects in No. 9 overall prospect, cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), No. 24 overall prospect, athlete John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and No. 67 overall prospect, offensive guard Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco).

[+] EnlargeJohn
Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY SportsJohn "JuJu" Smith was part of a huge signing day for USC.
Sarkisian and the Trojans were able to land all three, giving USC one of the best signing days of any program in the country. The signings give USC 19 additions in the 2014 class, including nine ESPN 300 pledges, one ESPN JC 50 prospect and impact players on both sides of the ball. There is really no way to overstate how well Sarkisian and the Trojans closed on signing day, posting what amounted to a perfect day.

The Trojans wound up with the No. 1 class in the Pac-12, but the rankings in the conference were bunched at the top.

Stanford made a huge run late, landing commitments from all six recruits it targeted over the past two months. The Cardinal added signatures from ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Tex./Coppell) -- at No. 25 overall, the highest rated Stanford addition since ESPN began its rankings in 2006 -- and three-star cornerback Terrence Alexander (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian). Though the Cardinal lost a late commitment from defensive end Uriah Leiataua (Compton, Calif./Dominguez), it was a very strong visit and a terrific class headed to the Farm.

Alexander wasn't the only recruit from John Curtis Christian to commit to the Pac-12, as Oregon and UCLA took their biggest commitments of the day from that program. The Ducks landed ESPN 300 safety Mattrell McGraw, while UCLA picked up its lone signing day commit in Kenny Young.

Oregon missed out on Smith and defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Earl Warren) but was able to land safety Khalil Oliver (Meridian, Id./Rocky Mountain) in a battle against Washington.

UCLA coaches will likely be disappointed with the day. Although the Bruins did reel in Young, UCLA missed on Thomas, No. 1 overall wide receiver Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis Christian) and the Southern California trio, which made matters worse for Jim Mora & Co. by committing to the Trojans. UCLA brought a very good recruiting class into signing day and did a good job of holding onto everybody, but the Bruins took some big swings at some big prospects across the country and didn't get the results they were hoping for.

Arizona State slid a few spots in the national rankings, but the Sun Devils did everything they could on signing day. Todd Graham brought a relatively full class into the day and was able to add two huge signatures in ESPN JC 50 prospects defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey (De Funiak Springs, Fla./Pearl River CC) and cornerback Kweishi Brown (El Cajon, Calif./Grossmont). The Sun Devils were also able to hold onto another junior college standout in wide receiver Eric Lauderdale (Fayetteville, Ga./Saddleback College), who received a significant late push from Florida.

Arizona was relatively quiet. The Wildcats brought in a huge list of verbal commitments and didn't lose anybody off the top of the class, landing five ESPN 300 prospects. Defensive tackle Marcus Griffin (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) was the big addition, as the big lineman selected Arizona over Cal, Mississippi State and Washington State.

Oregon State grabbed a signature from offensive guard Kammy Delp (Pomona, Calif./Diamond Ranch), who will play defensive tackle for the Beavers. Utah announced defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham) as a part of this class after he attempted to sign with the Utes in 2013.

Washington's big addition came Tuesday night in the form of ESPN 300 safety Bishard "Budda" Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue), but Chris Petersen and the Huskies also received a signing day commitment from intriguing 6-foot-5 receiver Brayden Lenius (West Hills, Calif./Chaminade). The Washington State Cougars closed with their second four-star commitment in this class, safety Deion Singleton (Paco, Wash./Chiawana).

But the day in the West belonged to USC, which jumped from No. 4 in the conference to landing the Pac-12's top 2014 recruiting class. Nationally, the Trojans moved from No. 24 to No. 15 overall.

Stanford (15th), Arizona State (21st) and Arizona (23rd) all finished among the top 25 recruiting classes in the nation.
After originally planning to announce his decision on signing day, Bishard Baker couldn’t wait and made the call for Washington on Tuesday night. It’s a huge get for new Huskies coach Chris Petersen, as Baker is the state’s top prospect and a former Oregon pledge.

ESPN 300 S Baker stays home

February, 4, 2014
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ESPN 300 safety Bishard "Budda" Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) got a head start on signing day. The nation's No. 122 overall prospect pushed his commitment forward from Wednesday morning to Tuesday night so that he could declare his commitment on local news station KING 5, where Baker announced that he will stay home and sign with the Washington Huskies.

"I'll be going to the University of Washington," Baker said while donning a Huskies hat and revealing a Washington shirt. "Family always comes first. I'll be close to my family and they'll be able to come see me play. It's a true blessing."

It's a huge recruiting win for head coach Chris Petersen, who was able to reel in arguably his top two in-state targets this week in Baker and offensive tackle Kaleb McGary (Fife, Wash./Fife). Baker had been committed to Oregon but dropped his pledge last month and focused his attention on UCLA and Washington. As signing day drew near, all the momentum swung to the Huskies. While Baker didn't shock many with his announcement on Tuesday night, it's still a huge commitment for Petersen and his staff.

Baker is already something of a local legend, as the 5-foot-9, 174-pound, two-way standout had his jersey retired at Bellevue High School following his senior season and gives this Washington class a true headliner in Petersen's first haul. Baker also gives the Huskies some significant momentum heading into signing day, which seemed far-fetched when Petersen initially took over a class with only eight commitments that was reeling following the departure of Steve Sarkisian. But Petersen worked diligently to first flip several recruits who were committed to Pac-12 schools, including UCLA and Washington State, then brought a few recruits with him from the Boise State class. He also made a splash in landing ESPN 300 quarterback Kyle Carta-Samuels (San Jose, Calif./Bellarmine Prep), who decommitted from Vanderbilt.

But it's likely that no recruit in the 2014 haul will mean more to Washington fans or the Huskies depth chart next season than Baker, who will likely have the opportunity to compete immediately at safety and perhaps chip in on the offensive side of the ball as well. His commitment marks the first time the Huskies have kept the top in-state player home since the 2011 class, when Washington signed wide receiver Kasen Williams.

Biggest flips: Pac-12 

February, 3, 2014
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Many of the biggest flips relating to Pac-12 teams came fairly early in the process, which means there might not be much chaos on signing day when it comes to recruits flipping commitments. However, as with every year, flips will help and hurt a number of conference programs come Wednesday, and we take a look at the five biggest in the Pac-12 during this recruiting cycle.


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Most important targets: Pac-12 

January, 28, 2014
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With only eight days before national signing day, it truly is crunch time for coaches and recruits alike for the 2014 class. In the Pac-12 especially, a number of spots remain available in a majority of classes. This week, we take a look at the most important uncommitted target for each conference program.

Arizona: DT Marcus Griffin (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue)
6-2, 299 pounds
Three-star prospect

The Wildcats jumped into the process late for Griffin but made enough of an impression that the big lineman took an official visit to Tucson last weekend. Griffin will announce on signing day from a group that consists of Arizona, Cal, Mississippi State and Washington State. While the Wildcats have a full class at this point, it looks as though they'd like to add one more big body along the defensive line and Griffin is one of the top defensive tackles in the region, regardless of commitment status.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

January, 27, 2014
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There were official visitors all over the Pac-12 this weekend, as conference coaches look to close out the 2014 recruiting class. But the most noise was made by a 2015 quarterback who committed to stay home for his college football career.


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Key recruiting visits -- Pac-12 

January, 24, 2014
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Just two weekends of official visits remain before signing day, so it's no surprise that just about every Pac-12 program will have visitors on campus this weekend. It's a huge opportunity for USC, which will have arguably it's most important host weekend of the recruiting calendar. Other programs will have a few recruits on hand in hopes of making a big splash the following weekend. While every visit is big at this stage of the game, here are a look at 10 of the most important for the Jan. 24 weekend:

1. ATH John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly)
Visiting: USC


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Early Offer: Tough sledding in Utah 

January, 23, 2014
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: With Kenyon Frison's decision to decommit from Utah, it likely means three of the top five players in state are going end up at programs other than BYU or Utah; Nick Saban headed West Wednesday to visit the high schools of the top two quarterbacks in the 2015 class; and Washington filled a major hole in its recruiting class Wednesday by landing quarterback Kyle Carta-Samuels.


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ESPN 300 S Baker is back on the board 

January, 17, 2014
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Pac-12 recruiting received something of a shakeup on Friday as ESPN 300 safety Bishard "Budda" Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) took to Twitter to announce his decommitment from Oregon.

Baker, ranked No. 122 in the ESPN 300 and the No. 7 safety, committed to the Ducks nearly one month ago and looked slated to play wide receiver. The 5-foot-9, 174-pound athlete had been a longtime lean to Oregon and it didn't shock anybody when he made his commitment to head coach Mark Helfrich and the Ducks in December.

The same cannot be said for Baker's decision on Friday, as his decommitment seemingly came out of nowhere. Baker declined comment about what went into his decision to pull away from Oregon, but said via Twitter that "the ducks are a great program just not the right program for me."


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Updated ESPN 300: Pac-12 analysis 

January, 14, 2014
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There were a several shifts for Pac-12 commits and targets in the newly updated ESPN 300. While it's difficult to make big jumps for players toward the top of the list, Oregon, UCLA and USC target John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) made a considerable move up 14 spots to No. 24 overall, while Arizona State and Stanford target Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) slid up seven spots and into the top 40 at No. 39 overall. But there were several others with Pac-12 ties who saw their stock rise even more:

[+] EnlargeViane Talamaivao and Austin Maloata
Blair Angulo/ESPNUSC offensive guard commit Viane Talamaivao (right) has moved up nine spots in the updated ESPN 300.
TE Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure): The USC verbal commitment moved up 37 places and now sits at No. 89 overall. He is now the No. 1 player at his position. The Trojans will need to hold off a late push from UCLA, which was his other finalist, but coach Steve Sarkisian's history with the tight end position as well as the fact that USC lost tight end Xavier Grimble to the NFL draft should allow the Trojans to keep hold of Dixon's commitment.


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Most important targets: Pac-12 

January, 8, 2014
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The West region still has a chance to greatly impact the Pac-12, as five of the top six recruits in the region remain uncommitted. And while a few Pac-12 classes still have a ways to go and others are looking for the finishing touches, there is still a most important commit for each program still out there. Here, we take a look at the one "must-have" recruit for each conference program.


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Oregon snagged the Evergreen State's top prospect Friday night. Read on to see how our scouts feel safety Bishard "Budda" Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) can make a name for himself with the Ducks:

[+] EnlargeBishard Baker
Mason Kelley/ESPN.comBishard Baker is versatile enough to contribute in many ways at Oregon, but safety might be his best.
What he brings: Baker is a versatile athlete who can contribute in multiple ways. He doesn't possess great size, but is physical and plays bigger than measureables may suggest. He also not a burner for his size, but he can accelerate well and still covers a lot of ground quickly. Listed as a safety in the ESPN 300, we feel his best fit is on defense, where he can be a very productive defender against the run and pass. He has an aggressive, ballhawk style of play and can excel in zone schemes, reading the quarterback and playing ball to man. He displays good range and a very good closing burst. He is not the biggest prospect, but he can throw his body around and be a tough run supporter. He also has shown he can be a good, dependable tackler. He wears several hats for his high school team and also could see action on offense, as well. With good ball skills and quick feet and lateral agility to elude defenders, he can make plays with the ball in his hands. With his athleticism and toughness, can also be an asset on special teams.

How he fits: That depends on how the Ducks utilize him. If you go by the philosophy that you put your best athletes on defense, then the top-10 safety could be a good fit for Oregon on that side of the ball. He could have some limitations in man coverage, but as a savvy zone defender who can also be aggressive against the run, he has the tools to be a productive player in Oregon's defense. While we feel his best fit is on defense, with the Ducks' high powered offensive attack he could be put into good use on that side of the ball, as well. He might not excel at one particular position, but they can utilize him at running back as well as at receiver, and he can be highly productive with his versatility.

Prediction for performance: Baker needs to keep physically developing and continue to grow as a player, which should come with focus on one side of the ball. He is a good enough athlete and football player to be able to come in and begin contributing on either side of the ball. Offense, it seems, could be a good initial fit, as the Ducks should be able to find ways for him to contribute there possibly sooner than if he was on defense. We also would expect him to begin to play a role on special teams.

How the class is shaping up: Things started a bit slowly for Oregon on the recruiting trail, but as signing day nears, the Ducks' class is coming together nicely. Baker is a big pick-up regionally, and with his commitment the Ducks now have five ESPN 300 prospects in their 16-member class.

Bishard Baker is a big get for Ducks 

December, 20, 2013
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ESPN 300 safety Bishard "Budda" Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) said earlier this week that he would be taking a break from recruiting during the dead period. As it turns out, that break only lasted a few days, as the nation's No. 147 overall prospect took to Twitter Friday to announce his commitment to the Oregon Ducks.

While the destination is not surprising -- Oregon held the lead in his recruitment for some time -- the timing is, as Baker is scheduled to take a round of visits to USC, UCLA and Washington in January.

But Baker mentioned in his tweet that he had thought about his options long enough.

"I'm glad to say I am officially committed to the OREGON DUCKS," Baker tweeted.

He went on to say that he had been leaning toward the Ducks for a while but didn't want to commit publicly until he was 100 percent convinced he was ready to do so.

Baker finished his tweet with some advice for other recruits.

"Never worry about what people think of you and your decisions," he wrote. "ALWAYS go with your heart and my heart took me to the Ducks."


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Breaking down USC's '14 class by position 

December, 19, 2013
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A recent string of commitments heading into the dead period has left USC with only five remaining slots in its 2014 recruiting class. The Trojans have 19 total spots to use, as long as four of them are mid-year enrollees.

Here's a position-by-position look at how USC could allocate those empty spots, with a projection of how many players at each position the Trojans will try to sign:

Offensive line: 6

The Trojans hold five commitments on the offensive line, two of those from mid-year enrollees who already have signed financial aid agreements. They might not be done, though, as a big fish is still out there and possibly leaning toward signing with his childhood favorite. If the coaching staff decides a scholarship would be more important at another position, the Trojans might have to part ways with a prospect from this bunch.


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Early Offer: The battle for Budda 

December, 18, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Bishard "Budda" Baker is at the center of one of the most intense recruiting battles in the West; after Ohio State and Penn State landed big commitments this week, the Big Ten is on a roll; and Washington and Washington State are battling again on the recruiting trail.

Baker’s recruitment heats up

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