Most important player: Washington Huskies

The Huskies lost a lot of talent on defense, but they still have playmaking safety Budda Baker. AP Photo/Matt York

All players are equal, but some players are more equal than others. That's the basis of our "most important players" series.

There are a few rules you need to know:

1. Quarterbacks are ineligible.

2. "Most important" doesn't equal "best." (Note: Sometimes the most important player is the best player.) I think we can all agree that a season ago, players such as Mike Bercovici and Jerry Neuheisel proved how very important they were to their respective teams.

3. Even if they were the most important, they're quarterbacks and therefore ineligible (see rule No. 1). Keep up, guys.

Washington: S Budda Baker

2014 production: Baker earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 after starting every game for Washington and finishing as the Huskies’ fourth-leading tackler in 2014 with 80 tackles, including two for loss. He recorded six pass breakups, seven passes defended and one circus interception in the season finale.

Why Baker is so important: This defense saw the most turnover of any defensive unit in the Pac-12 this past season so any kind of holdover is going to be hugely important and when that holdover is the uber-athletic Baker, it’s a very good and important thing.

The Huskies need playmakers on defense. They might not force a three-and-out on every drive, but if they field athletic playmakers like Baker, they can possibly contain the bleeding. Much of Baker’s production is going to rely on Joe Mathis, Elijah Qualls and the rest of the front seven getting some kind of defensive pressure going, but with the ball in the air, leave it to Baker to make a play.

We’ve seen guys make huge strides between their first and second years in a system and there’s no reason to think Baker won’t be one of those players. Chris Petersen & Co. are hoping Baker exceeds even those expectations and becomes a cornerstone of this defense.