One of the Washington Huskies’ most touted NFL prospects will stay at UW for the 2017 season.
A school spokesperson confirmed Friday that Vita Vea, a third-year sophomore defensive lineman, will return to school for his fourth-year junior season. Vea, listed at 6-foot-5 and 332 pounds, finished the 2016 season with 39 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks, and was projected as a second-round NFL draft pick by CBS Sports.
Vea’s decision to stay in school gives the Huskies two returning starters – Vea and fellow third-year sophomore Greg Gaines – on the defensive line, along with two returning starters at linebacker (Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria) and two returning starters in the defensive backfield (safeties Jojo McIntosh and Taylor Rapp).
The Huskies have already lost four underclassmen to the NFL draft – receiver John Ross, defensive backs Sidney Jones and Budda Baker, and defensive lineman Elijah Qualls – and Vea, a native of Milpitas, California, certainly had reason to consider leaving, too. He is large and powerful, yet also nimble, a former high-school running back and outside linebacker who graduated in 2013 but grayshirted and didn’t enroll at UW until the 2014 season.
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CBS Sports considered Vea the No. 44 overall prospect in the 2017 draft class. Sports Illustrated ranked him the fifth-best defensive tackle prospect. Former UW defensive line coach Jeff Choate, now the head coach at Montana State, said late in the 2014 season that Vea had more physical talent than former Huskies nose tackle Danny Shelton, a collegiate All-American and first-round NFL draft pick who now plays for the Cleveland Browns.
NFL.com wrote of Vea in an October story: “The 6-foot-5, 332-pound Vea is a load inside, standing up double teams to hold the line. His movement skills are remarkable, as he can stop-start to corral ball carriers in space like someone 75 pounds lighter.”
Vea was voted second-team All-Pac-12 by league coaches, and was also named to the Pac-12’s All-Academic second team. He majors in Anthropology and carries a 3.10 grade-point average.
The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is Monday (Jan. 16). Washington is not expected to have any more players declare.