By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Desmond Trufant received the first of what figures to be many accolades as his senior season at the University of Washington comes to an end.
The Tacoma native and standout cornerback accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl following the football season. He was one of 10 players to accept invitations this week.
“He’s earned it,” Huskies head 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 in front of my eyes to the way he’s playing now. He’s playing like an All Pac-12 player and very deservingly 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 for a player.
“It’s a phenomenal opportunity for any player,” said NFL Draft Scout.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 established 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 from every team in the league.
Trufant has been one of the best cornerbacks in the Pac-12 this season. Teams rarely throw to his side, but when they do he’s been solid. He has five pass breakups and an interception on the 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.”
Rang has Trufant projected as a second round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. “He entered this season projected as a third or fourth round 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, fellow 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 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 this weekend is not known. He’s been battling a sore hamstring the past few weeks and missed the last few series of the Utah win on Saturday. Realistically, the Huskies should be able to give him Saturday off and still prevail over a struggling Colorado Huskies team in Boulder. 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 Keith Heyward and Justin (Wilcox) and their style of teaching and coaching has helped Greg quite a bit.”