Washington defensive back Elijah Molden in action during the first half of a game against Arizona on Oct. 12, 2019, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Washington defensive back Elijah Molden in action during the first half of a game against Arizona on Oct. 12, 2019, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Coach Lake preaches patience to UW’s NFL hopefuls

Players like Elijah Molden and Levi Onwuzurike face a decision whether or not to play in spring.

By Mike Vorel / The Seattle Times

Elijah Molden and Levi Onwuzurike both decided to return for their senior seasons rather than enter the 2020 NFL draft.

Now, they may need to make the same decision again.

Last week, the Pac-12 Conference officially postponed all fall sports competitions. It’s possible a football season could still be played in the spring.

But if it is, would Molden and Onwuzurike — two seniors and potential early-round picks — be willing to risk injury, or infection, to finish their college careers in 2021?

“They know they can come to me and their position coach and talk these things out, and we’ve done that,” UW head coach Jimmy Lake said in aZoom call with reporters on Friday. “There’s a few things in play here. First, is the NFL going to pull their seasons off? Are they going to be able to play all of their games? And are they still going to have the combine in February and the draft April and May? I’ve heard talk that there’s potential they could move that back.

“Even if they have their season, if all Power Five conferences are not playing and the rest of college football is not playing, I’ve heard they may move the combine back and they may move the draft back. So there’s a lot of things at play here. The message to our guys that are in those positions was, ‘Let’s be patient. Let’s see what happens here in the next coming months, and let’s make an informed decision.’ When we can make an informed decision, everyone’s going to feel better about that.”

Either way, those decisions will have a profound effect on UW’s defense. A 5-foot-10, 191-pound defensive back, Molden led the Huskies in tackles (79), pass breakups (13), interceptions (4) and forced fumbles (3) in 2019. And Onwuzurike — a 6-3, 288-pound defensive lineman — contributed 45 tackles, six tackles for loss and two sacks, en route to being named a first-team All-Pac-12 performer.

Other Husky standouts — guys like outside linebacker Joe Tryon, tight end Cade Otton or offensive lineman Jaxson Kirkland — could conceivably sit out a spring season in order to declare for the NFL draft.

But, like Lake said, each suddenly has a lot of free time to make an informed decision.

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