Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Pac-12 [Print without images]

Thursday, April 8, 2010
Huskies' Foster ready for his close-up

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Think of college football players like stocks for a moment.

If you had purchased 1,000 shares of Washington linebacker Donald Butler at this time last year, folks would be comparing you to Warren Buffett. Butler went from a no-good, nobody on an 0-12 team to second-team All-Pac-10 and a potential early-round NFL draft pick.

So, per Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian's insider information, we're putting a buy rating on linebacker Mason Foster.

Mason Foster
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian thinks linebacker Mason Foster will have a big year.
"I love Mason Foster. He's an All-Pac-10, Player-of-the-Year-type of guy in this conference," Sarkisian said.

Of course, your returns won't be as extraordinary as they were on Butler. Foster, a 6-foot-2, 244-pound senior, is underrated but hardly unknown.

For one, you can't set a school record, lead the conference and rank third in the nation with six forced fumbles and remain completely obscure. Moreover, Foster's name causes all Arizona fans indigestion because he was the opportunistic fellow who grabbed that ball that bounced off Wildcats receiver Delashaun Dean's foot and returned the interception 37 yards for a go-ahead touchdown in the Huskies stunning upset win.

And, of course, he won the Earle T. Glant "Tough Husky" Award at the UW's postseason banquet.

Still, while Butler made a name for himself in 2009, Foster was mostly in the background.

"It's my turn to show what I can do now," Foster said.

One thing Foster does is make plays. His six forced fumbles and his three interceptions mean he was personally responsible for nine take-aways. He also ranked second on the Huskies with 85 tackles and third with 7.5 tackles for a loss. He led all conference linebackers with nine passes defended.

The tackles and forced fumbles? Foster can hit you. The passes defended? Foster can make plays as an athlete in the back-half.

Considering four of the six linebackers who earned All-Conference status are gone, it's easy to see why Foster's price-earnings ratio is tempting.

Of course, the defense around Foster is questionable. While the Huskies only lose two and a half starters -- the half being part-time starting end Darrion Jones -- the two were big presences for the front-seven: Butler and end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. The 2009 Huskies ranked ninth in the conference in scoring defense (26.7 ppg) and eighth in total defense (389.5 yards per game).

Foster doesn't seem worried.

"Don't count us out," he said. "We've got a lot of young, athletic guys."

On the plus side, the defense surged late, shutting out Washington State and holding California to just 10 points.

And, of course, the unit was vastly better under new, fiery coordinator Nick Holt than the 2008 crew that ranked 116th in the nation, surrendering nearly 40 points per game for an 0-12 team.

"It's totally different -- completely different," Foster said. "We don't even like to think about [0-12] anymore. I love coming here every day, being around all the guys and the coaches."

That new-found energy and enthusiasm has the Huskies thinking that after going 5-7, they will break through and earn the program's first bowl berth since 2002.

"This feels great compared to how it was before," Foster said.

Is a bull market at hand for Foster and the Huskies?