Washington's Budda Baker in line to become the Pac-12's next two-way star

Two years ago, Washington's Shaq Thompson won the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation's most versatile player.

The Huskies may have another candidate this season, as safety Budda Baker has been taking snaps at running back, wide receiver and slot during fall camp.

"He can do it all," co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said. "He's a dynamic player. There's really nothing Budda can't do. Maybe he can't long snap, but other than that, he can do basically everything else."

Thompson won the award after playing running back and linebacker, but his offensive carries came more out of necessity due to injuries at running back. With Baker, it's the opposite. The Huskies feel as though they have such abundant depth in the secondary that they can experiment with moving Baker around from his natural position.

JoJo McIntosh filled in ably at times last season when call upon, but it doesn't end there. Lake said it's the deepest group he has ever had at safety with Baker, McIntosh, Trevor Walker, Brandon Beaver, Ezekiel Turner and Taylor Rapp all in the mix.

"Now that we have a little more flexibility we can definitely throw some more change-ups out there as the season goes," Lake said.

Lake said that this has always been a discussion with Baker, even reaching back into his recruitment. The coaching staff recognized his versatility, but needed to make sure the Huskies had the necessary depth. As Baker has found himself getting more offensive snaps in fall camp, it hasn't come without a bit of "conflict." In practices, Baker, the offensive player, has gone up in one-on-one's against some of his fellow defensive backs.

Who won the battle?

"I won't comment on the result," Lake joked. "We want to make sure he doesn't make any plays on us. He definitely attracts a lot of attention."

And that is also Lake's hope going into the season. That no matter where Baker might end up on the field, he draws a lot of attention from opposing offensive and defensive coordinators.

"Maybe you'll see it one week, maybe you won't," Lake said. "That's what will be good game plan-wise. We'll keep our opponents off-balance because maybe we'll use a couple of guys, maybe we won't. Maybe a month later you'll see it again. We have that flexibility now."