Elijah Qualls admits leaving Washington wouldn’t be easy, if that’s what he decides to do.
Washington’s fourth-year junior defensive lineman will be in high demand among NFL teams, should he choose to declare for the draft in the coming weeks. A versatile, 6-foot-1, 321-pounder, Qualls is projected by CBS Sports’ NFL Draft Scout as the No. 7 defensive tackle in this year’s draft class, and the No. 64 overall prospect. He could go in the first or second round.
He will consider all of that as he decides whether or not to return to UW for his final year of eligibility.
“I guess see what the word is about what my projection is, talking to my mentors, things like that,” Qualls said after Washington’s 24-7 loss to Alabama in Saturday’s College Football Playoff semifinal. “Discussion with my coaches, especially my position coach (Ikaika Malloe). He’s definitely somebody I trust. Just a lot of checking, reassurance, weighing my options. Kind of the same thing I did recruiting.”
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Qualls also spoke about the possibility of building off UW’s 12-2 record and Pac-12 championship.
“Absolutely, everything’s a factor,” Qualls said. “If I did leave, I’d miss these dudes, man. This is one of the best locker rooms I’ve ever been in. Honestly, these are some of the only people I can stand to be around on a consistent basis, even though they frustrate me sometimes, too. But I love these dudes, man. That’s definitely going to factor in. To leave these dudes would be hard.”
He isn’t the only non-senior UW player with a decision to make. Sidney Jones, a junior, is projected by CBS Sports as a first-round pick and the No. 3 cornerback prospect in the class. Budda Baker, also a junior, is projected as one of the top safeties and a possible second-round pick. John Ross, a fourth-year junior, is projected as a top-20 overall prospect and a likely first-round pick.
Third-year sophomore defensive tackle Vita Vea is actually projected ahead of Qualls by NFL Draft Scout, as the No. 4 tackle in the class and the No. 44 overall prospect.
None has made a decision yet, though it would have to be considered something of a coup if any decide to stay. Ross said during the season that he hadn’t thought about it yet, and Baker said after Saturday’s game that he will “Talk to the family, talk to family friends, (and) hopefully have a decision soon.”