Monthly Archives: April 2009

Tailgatin’ with the Ferndawgs

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Ferndawgs Tailgate-mobile

It’s 3:00 on Saturday after the Spring game, and we are having a ball with the pack of self-proclaimed “Ferndawgs” at their tailgate. Scott & Anita Locker,  Ferndale natives and parents of Jake, lead the group of loyal fans 90 minutes down I-5 for the spring game and every home game during the season. The gathering of friends and family celebrate the event in style with satellite t.v., multiple grills going, and a spread worthy of an Offensive Lineman’s appetite.

With a decked out RV that contains newly updated purple and gold vinyl seats and #10 embroidered in the front seats, along with a big #10 and “Ferndawgs” painted on the sides, it is hard to mistake the Locker’s tailgate party. They have a staple group of Ferndale residents that come down and root for Jake and the Huskies, and in addition to the Tolars, Chidiacs, and Habbens, the camp is a good representation of not only the camaraderie that can continue from the hometown friends and family, but the friendships that can be made through the network of football parents.

“We have a great group,” Scott Locker said of the tailgate faithful. “Over 50 friends and family flew out to the Syracuse game (Jake’s first game as a starter in ’07). It’s one of my favorite memories.”

Not only do they rally at all the home games, travel to the away games is essential as well. “I don’t miss many games,” Scott says. When asked if he stopped attending the away games after Jake got hurt last year, Scott admitted “I missed a couple, but we still went to the majority of the games because we are a team.”

The away travel discussion brings up countless recollections of the last few years, with Mike Habben quick to say “I have tons of stories on Scott.” Of course, most of them are what you would expect from a tight-knit group of football guys; jokes and ribbing of each other, as well as talk about favorite places to go in each city and things to do before game time. The dialogue is good indication that the fun doesn’t just leave the state of Washington when they do, but that away games give them even more time to get to know each other and let loose for a weekend. “We have great fun when we go out of town. I look forward to it,” Scott says with a smile.

As the tailgate party continues on, the NFL Draft plays on the t.v. located in the back of Mike Habben’s vehicle. Sandi Lappano, mother of Taylor and wife of former offensive coordinator Tim Lappano, mingles with everyone while she follows the draft more intently than years past. Tim is now the tight end coach for the Detroit Lions, and was out in Detroit for the draft. “Tim didn’t think the Lions were going to take a tight end today,” Sandi states. “But, wouldn’t you know they took one with the 20th pick.”

It is ironic that this day of Spring Ball falls on the same day as the NFL draft, two events that symbolize new beginnings in many different ways. It is a correlation that will hopefully mean rather than tail gating for the Spring game in a couple of years, each member of this group may be somewhere watching the draft as the main event in the day, waiting to see if their kids reach the pinnacle of their football careers. Undoubtedly, when that time comes this close community will be there to take in the experience and support each other through the twists and turns that the draft and a career in professional sports can bring.

As the tailgate winds down and most fans have left the parking lot, the Ferndale group still waits for their guys to shower up and come out for some grub. Members of the casually-dressed Husky band come over to serenade the group as they walk on through the parking lot, almost seemingly as the private band of the “Ferndawgs” for a moment or two. The mood is celebratory, enjoyment from a good Spring game and the pseudo-start of the 2009 season. “This is the best time in my life,” Scott tells me. And who can blame him for feeling that way? Good family, good friends, and a good time. Let the season begin.

Spring Game Pics

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Darnell Gant & Justin Holiday Raisin’ Some Money

For more photos, please click here.

The morning buzz

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A lot of commentaries on Saturday’s spring game, and how Locker has really transformed in Spring Camp.

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune talks about Locker’s progression here.

Ken Goe of the Oregonian posts that Locker’s passing improvement may not be good news for the northwest rivals.

The bleacherreport.com summarizes the game here.

The Kitsap Sun writes about how Jake’s most inefficient part of his day may have been the crowd of picture and autograph seekers after the game.

More on the athletic quarterback & the NFL

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We talked about a popular topic in an entry a few days ago regarding athletic quarterbacks going to the NFL and trying to get the NFL scouts to think outside of traditional pocket passer prospects.

USA Today features this topic and Pat White, former West Virginia quarterback and now future member of the Miami Dolphins.

Also, many other articles on this subject such as one detailing how college offenses are making it difficult for some scouts to evaluate talent, as well as how  it is even impacting other player evaluations such as offensive lineman.

As college offenses continue to evolve, chances are NFL systems will as well. A prime example is how the Miami Dolphins released the Wildcat formation last year and it caught on through the season with many other teams. Once NFL teams start adopting creative offensive schemes much like college teams have adopted, they will have the personnel available every year in the draft. But, until they do, there will be a power struggle between NFL scouts insisting it negatively affects the results of their evaluations, and the college coaches that insist their innovative offenses positively affects the results of their games.

Locker Impresses, Purple Team Cruises in Spring Game

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Over 10,000 Purple and Gold clad Husky fans took in the Spring Game Day festivities and got to witness the return of some old faces, a new coaching staff, and a healthy starting quarterback.

From Sonny Sixkiller to Marques Tuiasosopo and Lawyer Milloy to Shane Pahukoa, tons of former Husky players were treated to a 33-0 shutout pitched by the Purple team over the White team.

The weather cooperated and was a balmy 53 degrees at the 1:30 start, and the purple team wasted no time as Jake Locker drove them down and ended up running into the endzone from 10 yards out. Locker finished the day completing 16 of 18 passes for 200 yards with 2 touchdowns and the touchdown run, a crisp and efficient day that saw no injuries on either side.

Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt described his thoughts on Jake’s performance to Bob Condotta of the Seattle times, “He’s gotten a lot better, especially this last week of spring. He has a real working knowledge of the offense and is comfortable with what they are trying to get done. He’s always been an excellent athlete and how he’s really developed into quite the quarterback and he’ll only get better now.”

Coach Sark also had positive thoughts about Locker’s day: “I thought Jake was really sharp. He’s playing much more relaxed that he was early in spring. He’s just delivering the ball, he’s comfortable. I thought a little bit there in the third quarter he got stuck in the pocket a couple of times. We’ve been hammering home to him, ‘Stay in the pocket, stay in the pocket.’ Now we’ve got to let him go a little bit and let him play football. But I thought he had a nice game.”

“They want me to give the routes a shot, but at the same time they never told me they want to take away my ability to run the ball,” Locker told the Seattle PI. “I’m just comfortable in the offense. I know what I’m doing and I know where I’m going. I’m confident.”

The notable stars of the day other than Locker was Willie Griffin, who scored a 29 yard touchdown on a short pass from Locker (sprung by a great block by Devin Aguilar), Chris Polk, Jermaine Kearse, and Demetrius Bronson. Anthony Boyles also looked solid, running some good routes and making some nice catches for the white team. On defense, Donald Butler and Mason Foster had good games, with Foster registering a couple of sacks, and on the white team Trenton Tuiasosopo was all over the field making tackles. 

The game ended with a final drive that was highlighted by a 25 yard gain by Chris Polk (one play after coming down awkward), a 19 yard gain by Polk, and finally a 8 yard touchdown catch by Jermaine Kearse. It was a great way to end the day and Spring Camp.

The game acted as a first glance of the new coaching staff for many Husky fans, and the days events were just the start of what fans can grow to expect with the new regime’s open-door philosophy and focus on fan involvement. “It was like a breath of fresh air”, said Jerry Pugnetti, a long time Tyee season ticket holder who experienced the Spring Game for the first time. “It feels like a dark cloud has been lifted and that we get to start over from scratch. I’m excited.”

The new uniforms were unveiled in the east endzone on mannequins, and had a mostly positive reception. Numerous fans stopping by to check them out really liked the clean look to the retro-inspired jerseys with the block numbers and the stripes down the legs. On display were the traditional home purple jerseys with gold pants and the away white jerseys with the gold pants. A third ensemble was a new one: all white uni’s with purple lettering. The helmets did not change.

There are many other articles describing different points of view on the Spring Game:

Nick Daschel of Buster Sports.com quips that if “Locker is this sharp, the Huskies have a chance in 2009.” 

The Tacoma News Tribune echoes that Locker’s performance was a good sign for the Huskies.

Game Notes

Players seeing game action:

1st Team Offense: Locker, Bruns, Izbicki, Griffin, C. Polk, J. Polk, Kelemete, Kearse, Aguilar, Middleton, Bronson, Habben, Ossai, Tolar, Schaefer, and Fancher

1st Team Defense: Butler, Foster, Glenn, Williams, Mosley, Richardson, Fogerson, Ta’amu, Huppert, Te’o-Nesheim, Elisara, Matthews, Jones, Walker

2nd Team Offense: Fouch, Boyles, Sylvester, B. Johnson, Shaw, Chidiac, Togi, Freeman, Leonard, Ikehara, Hayes, Rosborough, Christine, Scott, Shugert, Armelin, Savant, Kanczugowski

2nd Team Defense: Aiyewa, Persley, Gobern, Logan, Amosa, Houston, Galbraith, Wood, T. Johnson, Long, Ferleman, TJ Poe, Noble, Remington, Duncan, Tuiasosopo, Roussel

Note: Please stay tuned for pictures to be loaded, which will be found on the “Gallery” page of this website.

JL.Com Practice Notes 4.24

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 The 65 degree day and sunny skies, along with Lil’ Wayne to the Red Hot Chili Peppers blasting through the loud speakers, created an entertaining environment that ended up being a swift final practice prior to tomorrow’s Spring Game. Today’s practice was a little more casual than others, with the guys in shorts and helmets but sans pads and abiding by two-hand shove tackle rules….although there were some spirited tackles when a guy refused to stop moving his legs.

“These guys are fun to be around–I like the energy”, coach Nick Holt said after practice, specifically singling out Daniel Teo Nesheim and Darrion Jones as having great Spring Camps on his defense.

The practice was a little different compared to other practices, with the offense and defenses put into specific game scenarios. “Today we needed to see checks & formations, see how the guys reacted to different situations” coach Holt said when asked what the goal of the day was. Coach Holt also noted that over the last week the team has improved on trying to strip the ball, an activity he said has been emphasized throughout the Spring.

On the offense some of the same guys that have been repeatedly making good showings at practice were again making big plays….. Jordan Polk had a couple of nice plays, as did Locker and Willie Griffin. Anthony Boyles got in on the action too, converting a jump ball in the endzone to a 40+ yard touchdown from Ronnie Fouch.

On hand were some former Huskies, and near the end of practice some of the cheerleaders and band members cheered on the team. At the end of practice, the team gathered at the West Endzone and sang along to “Bow down to Washington”.

Other practice notes:

  • Team worked on kick off and punt coverage, with a few nice returns by Cody Bruns and Curtis Shaw. Devin Aguilar was also returning some kicks
  • Habben, Tolar, Schaefer, Kelemete and Ossai worked as a unit on the O-Line, with Armelin, Ikehara, Rosborough, Shugert and Nick Scott working as the other unit.
  • Izbicki, Homer, Griffin, Kearse, Aguilar, Chris Polk and Middleton were playing along with Locker at QB
  • Alternating in for the other group along with Fouch were teammates Bruns, B Johnson, Chidiac, Leonard, Freeman, Curtis Shaw and Boyles at the ‘skill’ positions
  • On defense, Johri Fogerson, Nate Williams, Justin Glenn and Nate Richardson were running as a secondary unit, with Victor Aiyewa also alternating in
  •  Alvin Logan looked fairly comfortable in his new spot in the secondary
  • Luther Leonard stayed after practice for a bit catching balls from the ball machine

Injury Report:

Chris Polk limped a little after commencing a play, but looked like he was okay. Everette Thompson was observing from the sidelines with his left leg wrapped and crutches holding up his large frame. Nick scott came up lame after a play but also appeared to be fine.

Odds and Ends:

I love coach Holt…..and the highwater shorts. Would make Urkle proud…although I wasn’t about to make that comment in front of him that is for sure.

Looks to have an NFL Linebacker stature: Donald Butler & Kurt Magnum.

Scott Woodward stood around and mingled about on the sidelines. Nice to see him there.

A handful of highschool players were on hand on the sidelines.

Pick-A-Seat signs for the preview tomorrow were already pasted on the seats. Looked like some fairly good seats are still available.

Breaking the Trend: Athletic QB’s and the NFL

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Wide Receiver or Cornerback? It’s the question that most NFL scouts debate when attempting to categorize an ahtletically gifted collegiate quarterback with the size, speed, and strength to play multiple positions. They look at the successes of Antwaan Randle El and Ronald Curry at the pro level–both former college qb’s. They see Matt Jones from Arkansas as well as Brad Smith from Missouri get moved to wide receiver in recent years as well. The “experts” even believe that it is the destiny for Pat White, West Virginia’s talented multi-faceted and successful quarterback who is anxiously awaiting his name to be called during tomorrow’s NFL draft.

If it is hard to grasp, all you have to do is look at recent Husky quarterback Isaiah Stanback, a speedy and strong athlete with a rocket arm, who got drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and was immediately switched to Wide Receiver.

“I’m just looking to play”, Stanback told DallasCowboys.com in a recent interview. “That’s all. I want to play and contribute and help the team win.”

Most college quarterbacks do just that: accept a different position to fit in the NFL’s proverbial box, a move to keep their pro-football career going forward. And then there are the exceptions, such as former Nebraska quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch, who always fought for his right to play quarterback and decided to quit when his dream to play qb at the highest level wasn’t embraced by any of the NFL franchises.

As the spread-option becomes a favorite offensive system for many schools, athletic quarterbacks will become the norm and if the NFL continues to embrace their position switching philosophy, you will see a lot of great wide receivers that can throw the ball……and some quarterbacks who start only because of the NFL’s tunnel vision tradition of looking for the next greatest drop back passer.

Guys like Jake Locker and Tim Tebow will make an effort to buck recent history and be successful pro quarterbacks in the coming years. Ian Peterson of the BleacherReport.com poses the question about Locker’s NFL future in his article posted today. Peterson highlights his observation of Locker’s improvement with accuracy, arguably his biggest goal other than learning the new offensive philosophies, and states that he believes with the right guidance Locker has a good chance to make it to the NFL as a quarterback.

Eventually, NFL teams will realize that having a quarterback with mobility and speed is the future of the game, and the teams that find the best ways to utlize their talents will have the most sucess. And although it is an exciting thought to watch Jake on Sundays, do remember he is only a mid-Sophomore game experience wise.  Before the NFL becomes a realistic discussion, Husky nation will get to watch him develop for the next 2 years on Saturdays–an opportunity to witness the progression of a player with a bright future.

Coach Sarkisian excited about Jake’s progression

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That is what he told the Bob Condotta of the Seattle times on Wednesday.

“I’m extremely, extremely excited about it,” coach sark told the Seattle Times of Locker’s improvement. “He’s really completing the football well,” Sarkisian said. “He’s starting to find that fine line in there of when to pull the ball down and run and make plays with his legs, and he’s understanding where his checkdowns are. The best way to get your completion percentage up is when things aren’t open down the field, check the ball underneath and let the backs make plays.”

You can also read other practice notes from Bob here. He highlights some great plays from Jordan Polk, and details a little about the Spring game format as well.

Spring Game Activities

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This Saturday, April 25th, the University of Washington will have a smorgasbord of activities for those who will be attending the Spring Game festivities. For those of you that are planning on going, here is a run down of the schedule at Husky Stadium:

10:00 Memorabilia Sale: South side of Husky Stadium. Take advantage of a bunch of practice and game used items that the Huskies are looking to sell. Great for the memorabilia fanatic! 

11:00 UWAA Booth: Until 1:00 in the East EndZone of Husky Stadium. Tattoos, Sign Making, and Photos with Harry the Husky will be fun for all ages.

11:00 Big W Tailgate: About 250 Former Players are planning to attend this tailgate over in the Tyee Parking Section, South Side. It will begin around 11 a.m. or a tad after.

11:30 Pick A Seat: A chance to find out what seats are available for the upcoming season. You can go to the respective seats to see the view prior to committing to purchase. You can order tickets and put down your money on the spot. As a purchase promo, those who select and pay for their seats on Saturday will get a Stadium Book and Tunnel Tour prior to a game this season. And, you also get a chance to preview the new ”value seats” offer.

11:30 Kids Zone: The east practice field will have a bunch of kids activities starting around 11:30 and will last about one hour.

1:00 Spring Game: Get a preview of the team in the annual Spring Game!

Attendees will also get a glimpse of the new uniforms, which will be unveiled Saturday at Husky stadium (on some mannequins, by the way). Last year there was an estimated 9,000 in attendance, and hopefully we can better that this year. The weather looks like it will be cooperating, with partly sunny skies and around 60 degrees forecasted for the day.

For those of you that can’t make it Saturday, you can actually catch the game on t.v. or radio. Here are some helpful links:

Go Huskies.Com Video Streaming: http://www.gohuskies.com/allaccess/index.html (free event)

KJR Radio Audio Stream: http://www.kjram.com/main.html (of course, you can always tune into 950 a.m. if you are in the local area, or stream the game here)

More Position Changes; Locker Progressing In New Offense

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Since Spring practice began, Coach Sark has been evaluating players to find the best fit within the new schemes, and has also been making alterations to improve depth in key areas. With Luther Leonard now at receiver and working with the kickoff return team, and with Senio Kelemete now on the offensive line rather than the d-line, some of the position changes seem to be working out for the best. On Monday it was learned that Alvin Logan, who played signifcantly at wide receiver last year, has moved to safety…..a transition that will likely work out well to increase the depth in the secondary. The Tacoma News Tribune’s Blog gives a few more details of why they made the switch now. The Go Huskies Blog also does a thorough job of providing notes from practice….and they also put together a catchy Spring Football Teaser.

Along with the position changes that are evolving at practice, many are excited to see how the new offense will progress. As Bob Condotta reports in his latest practice notes installment, Coach Sarkisian is feeling good about his quarterback’s improvement throughout Spring Camp.

“It’s hard to put a gauge on exactly where you think a guy would be,” Coach Sark said of Locker. “I know this, from the midpoint of spring – practice 7, practice 8 – until now, practice 12, I know he has thrown quite a bit. He’s comfort level with the terminology, his comfort level with his progression, his comfort level when things are there to pull the ball down and run and finding that fine line there, his accuracy has gotten better. I just think his overall game has improved.”