Huskies’ Chris Petersen: Vita Vea ‘has so much unrealized potential’

Feb 2, 2017, 11:31 AM
Vita Vea had five sacks in 2016, but Chris Petersen thinks he has even more untapped potential. (AP...
Vita Vea had five sacks in 2016, but Chris Petersen thinks he has even more untapped potential. (AP)
LISTEN: Huskies coach Chris Petersen on recruit class, Vita Vea's potential

The Washington Huskies are losing some early entrants in the NFL Draft that were big contributors from the team that made the 2016 College Football Playoff semifinals, but Vita Vea isn’t one of them.

Vea, a 6-foot-5, 332-pound defensive tackle, decided last month that he would return for his junior year, though he had the option to leave after three years in the Washington program due to redshirting in 2014.

Huskies head coach Chris Petersen is glad to know Vea’s imposing presence will remain on UW’s defensive line, and he’s optimistic the California native could grab some more attention from NFL scouts before possibly entering the draft in 2018.

“He still has so much unrealized potential,” Petersen told “Brock and Salk” on Thursday, the day after Washington announced 18 recruits on National Signing Day. “This guy can do some unbelievable things on the football field and his best days are in front of him.”

Vea made 39 tackles (22 unassisted), including 6.5 tackles for loss, and he was tied for second on Washington with five sacks. That, combined with his size and strength, gave him a good amount of buzz for the 2017 draft. But with another year in a Washington uniform, Petersen believes Vea could vault himself even higher in next year’s draft.

“His stock, as high as it was, can change significantly if he can take the next step, which we all believe he can,” Petersen said. “And now he’s talking about game-changing money and those type of things. I was really proud of him because I thought he made a great decision.”

In a previous interview with “Brock and Salk” last month after the end of the Huskies’ season, Petersen explained his philosophy when it comes to helping players decide whether to stay at Washington or enter the draft early. And while in some cases he encouraged players to go to the pros, he said Thursday that Vea was a different case.

“It’s like, what is best for this kid and his family? Sometimes it’s best for the kid to go out early, and sometimes it’s not,” Petersen said. “I really felt strongly that it was not best for Vita, and I think Vita felt like that at the end of the day.”

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Huskies’ Chris Petersen: Vita Vea ‘has so much unrealized potential’