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Peach Bowl notebook: Budda Baker, Ronde Barber comparisons warranted

Washington safety Budda Baker answers questions from reporters during Washington Media Day for the Chick Fil A Peach Bowl College Football semifinal on Thursday December 29, 2016 at the Georgia Dome, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Washington safety Budda Baker answers questions from reporters during Washington Media Day for the Chick Fil A Peach Bowl College Football semifinal on Thursday December 29, 2016 at the Georgia Dome, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Published Dec. 29, 2016

ATLANTA — When analysts try to describe Washington DB Budda Baker, they typically compare the undersized, do-it-all talent to the "Honey Badger," former LSU star DB Tyrann Mathieu.

Another name might be more fitting: Bucs legend Ronde Barber.

"I like that comparison," said Jimmy Lake, the Huskies' co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach.

Lake would know. He coached Barber as a Bucs assistant from 2006-07 and again as Tampa Bay's defensive backs coach in 2010-11. Lake has shown plenty of Barber clips to Baker and the rest of the Huskies secondary, and Lake teaches Washington the same techniques he did with the Bucs.

The physical similarities between Baker and Barber are obvious. Baker is listed at 5 feet 10, 192 pounds; the same height as Barber and 8 pounds heavier.

Barber made five Pro Bowls because of his versatility; he retired as the only player in NFL history with at least 25 sacks and 40 interceptions. Baker's jack-of-all-trades approach (a team-high nine tackles for a loss, plus two interceptions and five pass breakups) put him on some All-America teams.

"He can play any position. He can play safety, nickel, corner," Baker said. "That's how I feel like I can play."

Lake said some of the comparisons between Baker and the future Hall of Fame candidate don't show up on film. Barber was a football junkie, and Baker will text detailed film breakdowns of Washington's next opponent before Lake has even finished grading the previous game.

"A guy that's just into it — totally into football," Lake said. "It's a coach's dream."

FSU REFLECTION: Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt sees some similarities between the Crimson Tide's current lineup and Florida State's unit that won the 2013 national title.

"They had good leaders, good players," said Pruitt, the defensive coordinator on that Seminoles championship squad. "That team and this team, they liked to practice, which is important. They like being around each other."

QB Jameis Winston might have overshadowed how dominant that FSU defense was; Pruitt's team led the nation in fewest points (170 over 14 games) and rushing touchdowns allowed (seven). His current defense has given up only 153 points and three rushing scores through 13 games.

The Tide's 25-game win streak is the nation's longest since FSU won 29 in a row from 2012-14.

GATOR CHATTER: Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said the Washington defense he will face Saturday is "right at the top" of ones they've faced so far — alongside Florida. "Without injuries, I think Florida would have been maybe one of the top couple defenses in the whole country," Kiffin said. "I think these guys are similar to that, fast, really good secondary. I think, obviously, both corners are NFL players. The defense reminds me a lot of the Seattle Seahawks."

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UNDERDOGS: If the Huskies didn't know that they're two-touchdown underdogs before arriving, they know now. Players were hounded with questions about it Thursday; one reporter asked Washington RB Myles Gaskin if he would rather win the Rose Bowl "than get your butt kicked by Alabama" in the semifinal. Gaskin's response: "Absolutely not. We're right where we need to be."

DEJA VU: Kiffin missed the Tide's bus back from media day. The team bus left without him after last year's national championship game. Kiffin has accepted the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic but will keep coaching the Tide through its playoff run.

AUDIBLE: "Grass is harder. That's pretty much it." — Alabama WR Calvin Ridley on how this semifinal at the turf-covered Georgia Dome is different than other ones he's experienced.