Cornerback Desmond Trufant received the first of what figures to be many accolades during his senior season at the University of Washington.
The Wilson High graduate accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala. He was one of 10 players to accept invitations this week.
“He’s earned it,” Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’m proud of Desmond for that. He’s been a real catalyst for us, since the day I got hired. There’s a significance of recruiting him and getting him to stay home and come to school here. And then him growing up in front of my eyes to the way he’s playing now. He’s playing like an all- Pac-12 player and very (deserving) of the Senior Bowl recognition and any of the postseason recognition that he gets.”
But it’s not just about the recognition of being chosen, it’s the possibility of improving your NFL draft stock that is even more important.
“It’s a phenomenal opportunity for any player,” said nfldraftscout.com senior analyst Rob Rang. “It can be even more important when you are a player at one of the weaker positions in a draft class. And that’s exactly what there is for the senior class of cornerbacks this year.”
The Senior Bowl was first played in 1950 and is considered the top postseason all-star game for college seniors. It gives players a week of practice under the instruction of NFL coaches and in front of the watchful eyes of NFL scouts, general managers and executives.
The younger brother of Marcus (the No. 11 overall pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2003) and Isaiah Trufant (New York Jets) has been one of the best cornerbacks in the Pac-12. Teams rarely throw to his side, but when they do he has been solid. He has five pass breakups and an interception this season.
His performance against Marqise Lee of USC – holding him to a season-low two catches for 32 yards – helped elevate his draft stock.
“Desmond Trufant has had as good of a senior season as anyone in the country,” Rang said. “The USC game was the primary example of that, going against that elite talent at receiver and a legitimate NFL quarterback (Matt Barkley).”
Rang has Trufant projected as a second-round pick in the April 25-27 NFL draft.
“He entered this season projected as a third- or fourth-rounder with the idea he would certainly be capable of moving up,” Rang said. “We all knew he had that level of talent, but this has been his most consistent year.”
Besides Trufant, cornerback Jordan Poyer of Oregon State has also accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl. Rang has Poyer and then Trufant rated behind Jonathan Banks of Mississippi State as the best senior cornerbacks.
“There could be an interesting battle because it looks like all three players will be at the Senior Bowl,” Rang said. “Banks got the most attention this season, but he hasn’t had the type of seasons that Poyer and Trufant have had this year.”
Whether Trufant plays Saturday at Colorado is not known. He’s been battling a sore hamstring the past few weeks and missed the last few series of the win over Utah on Saturday.
Realistically, the Huskies should be able to give him Saturday off and still prevail over a struggling Colorado Buffaloes team in Boulder, Colo. Junior cornerback Greg Ducre filled in capably for Trufant.
“I think Greg has played really well for us in three consecutive weeks now,” Sarkisian said. “He made some plays there at the end of the Oregon State game; he made some plays there in the Cal game, when Des was down; and I thought he played really well again the other night against Utah.
“So, I think it’s coming with confidence and playing more. It’s a real credit to (defensive backs coach) Keith Heyward and (defensive coordinator) Justin (Wilcox) and their style of teaching and coaching has helped Greg quite a bit.”Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @RyanDivish