Monthly Archives: May 2009

Let the season previews begin

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Collegefootballnews.com kicks off the season preview editions with this look at the upcoming Husky football season. 

The column details how improved the Huskies will be, and what it will take to have a successful season in 2009. Also mentioned is the expectations of Jake Locker, a guy they believe will run less yet still make plays as the leader of the team, and a player they label as “one of the best athletes in the country.”

Look for a myriad of football previews coming over the next couple of months, and we will post links to some of the better ones.

The Return of “Montlake Jake”

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SPORT-FOOTBALL/

Athleticism. Leadership. Grit. The list of attributes that Jake Locker possesses is lengthy, which is the main reason that everyone from the fans to the media expected him to throw the Huskies on his back and carry them back to prominence when he pledged to the University of Washington out of high school.

Tabbed the starter prior to the 2007 after a red-shirt year, Jake knew that he had to catch on quickly with the schedule that the Huskies had on tap. And, when asked how he felt about being dubbed the “savior” of UW Football, he was realistic. “I might fulfill expectations, I might not,” Locker told the Seattle times in an article published the eve of his first game. “Nobody knows at this point. So I’m just going to go out and do as well as I can and play as hard as I can, and I don’t think there’s anything else I can do. I can’t worry about the expectations that others have for me.”

His first start was at Syracuse, a Thursday night game featured on ESPN, and the spotlight was on the redshirt freshman quarterback from Ferndale. The quarterback did not disappoint as Locker made good reads, good throws, and exhilarating runs on his way to 14 of 19 passing for 142 yards, and had 10 carries for 83 yards with 2 touchdowns. It was a story book beginning for a player and team hungry to compete for a Pac-10 championship.

9 days later, the first home game of his career against #22 Boise State was a chance to treat the home fans to a victory, and Locker delivered with an impressive encore performance: 13 for 25 for 193 yards and a t.d., along with 84 yards and a t.d. on the ground on the way to a decisive victory over a solid bowl-worthy team. With every play in that game, including one where Locker took a group of defenders into the end-zone, the legacy and expectations of #10 continued to grow.

Optimism couldn’t have reached a higher point than after the first half of the following game, a contest against national powerhouse and #10 ranked Ohio State. The Huskies held their own against the Buckeyes in the first half, and went into the locker room with a 7-3 lead. Husky nation, at that point in time, reminisced about the last time a high-ranked team came into the stadium and left with a loss. It had felt like decades since the game in 2000 when the Huskies upset a Miami team, then #4 in the nation and stocked full of 17 future NFL first round draft picks, 34-29, but at this point anything felt possible.

It was as if Husky Football was back….and then, in an instant, it was gone. Although Locker still impressed as he looked faster than the NFL-caliber players on the OSU defense, he and the Huskies fell apart in the second half in what would be a theme for the rest of the season. 2 costly interceptions and countless missed assignments led to being outscored 30-7 in the last 30 minutes en route to a deflating 33-14 loss.

But, it should be noted that the freshman quarterback still had 102 yards rushing on 14 carries and passed for 153 yards and a touchdown against a very formidable opponent. The outlook was still bright for most, as 2-1 after 3 challenging games was nothing to fret about and, after all, the quarterback looked more mature than his years on a team where 37% of the players were seniors.

Unfortunately, it didn’t go as Husky fans had hoped. The Huskies proceeded to lose another 5 games in a row, falling to 2-6 for the season. A close 3-point loss to #1 USC, along with frustrating second half collapses against Oregon, Arizona State, Arizona and UCLA torpedoed the once-promising season. Although Locker continued to put up gaudy numbers, including a 336 yard passing/157 yard rushing/4 touchdown performance in a loss to Arizona, the team couldn’t catch a break.

Following a feel-good victory against Stanford, the freshman leader suffered a scary neck injury after a controversial hit during a game vs. Oregon State. Locker was taken off the field in an ambulance, and with him went any chance to salvage a lost season. Luckily, he was okay and returned to the field in a neck brace later, but he would miss the following game and then would fight through the rest of a season that would see more near-wins and harrowing losses.

2008 was supposed to be the return of Locker and the Huskies. And, although having a sophomore quarterback that had been through a full season was reason to hold out hope, it was a youthful team that lacked game experience in key areas. And, Locker would need to acquaint himself with a wide receiving group full of freshman and one returning player, and would need to find his way without 6th year senior and starting center Juan Garcia, who did not return until the 3rd game of the season.

Amidst all of the challenges that come with getting a team to gel in a short period of time, a severe hamstring injury knocked Locker out of fall camp. But, he was not going to let anyone make a big deal out of his injury and maintained his excitement for the season, a season that everyone knew would come down to his success and leadership.

As he took the field less than 100%, the first game saw the quarterback struggle. Without his typical speed and without a lot of time to bond with the new freshman receivers, the Husky offense could not get on track. After the loss to Oregon on the road a controversial defeat against BYU followed, a game that saw the flash of Jake’s brilliance as he willed them to what appeared to be a game-tying touchdown. It was a disappointing loss that got people from coast to coast talking, but discussing the poorly officiated ending was no consolation for a team thirsty for a victory. jake-locker31

Less than 2 games later, Locker’s already challenging season was cut short after he broke his hand throwing a block. Always the consummate teammate and leader, the cruel twist of fate was fitting if not only for the reason he suffered his injury doing what most quarterbacks don’t do: block for their teammates.

As we look to next season, the Huskies aren’t even a blip on the radar of most. They open their season with a nationally televised night game against perennial powerhouse LSU, a game they are expected to lose. They bring in a losing streak of regrettable proportions. And they feature a quarterback that, outside of the West Coast, has been largely forgotten because of his abrupt departure last season.

Through the 2-year journey, Jake has seen not only what it feels like to quickly climb the peaks of success, but also how it feels to endure frustrating injuries and painful losses. This year may be a perfect opportunity, however. He will be able to approach a season with relative calm, a season where there will be optimism but few expectations. It will be with a team that lacks a large group of seniors but one that is packed full of potential. And even though there will be a gauntlet of tests on the schedule, it will provide great opportunities to recapture what has been recently been lost: in Locker’s words, we will once again see ”a more inspired football team.”

It could be said after the last 2 years (15 total games) that it would appear Locker is star-crossed or unlucky. Whatever conclusions are made, there is an old saying that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” If that is the case, the talented Mr. Locker may be stronger than ever, and with a healthy group of more experienced teammates and a coach known for developing quarterbacks, fans of college football should take notice: ”Montlake Jake” will be back.

Jake named in “Pac-10′s Best of Spring”

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Ted Miller of ESPN.com named his best of Pac-10′s spring ball, with a mention of Jake Locker as “best performance by a quarterback II”. Andrew Luck, a quarterback at Stanford, took the other honors because of a strong spring game.

Coach Sark on KJR

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Husky Coach Steve Sarkisian was on Dave “Softy” Mahler’s show this morning, and spoke on a handful of topics from what is happening at USC to how the team is improving. You can find the interview here.

In that interview, he gave some brief thoughts on what Jake has improved on since the start of his tenure:

“One of the biggest things is just mechanics…..and technique and what we are doing. There is a lot that goes into it with footwork and drops and understanding progressions and working your body to get into a position to be accurate……and also it’s understanding the touch and throws.

I think he is really understanding what we are asking of him and I think he is only going to continue to grow as we move into summer. He’s got an understanding now after 15 practices of what coach Nussemeier and myself are looking for out of him, and now he can take that and work through summer and get ready for fall camp.”

 

Tweet Us on Twitter

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You can find us at www.twitter.com/JakeLocker.

We will update the twitter page when a new post goes live, as well as other odds and ends related to Jake Locker and Husky Football. If you aren’t twittering by now, you are about the only one so don’t delay!

How well do you know #10?

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From his middle name to his favorite football player, you’ll find out a little more about the Huskies q.b. with this interview by Huskies softball player Bailey Stenson. You can find other clips of Bailey’s interviews, called “Breakin’ it Down with Bailey,” on GoHuskies.com.

Links of the Week

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A few UW and Jake tidbits from the week:

May 2nd: In case you missed the news, the opening game of the season against LSU at Husky Stadium will be at night on ESPN.  Does it get any better than that?

May 5th: The Huskies released the first official depth chart. To see a full chart, Chris Fetters of Dawgman provides a great breakdown here. Of course, this is just the start of a roster that will continue to change leading up to the first game of the season.

May 6th: Nick Daschel of Buster Sports says you can “Take it to the Bank” that EJ Savannah will be one to watch this year.

May 8th: Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com opens his mailbag, where he answers a couple of questions regarding Jake Locker and the Huskies.

Also on ESPN.com, Ted Miller has a thorough summary on every Pac 10 team’s spring camp, including the Huskies, in his “Spring Wrap-Up.”

New Uni’s: A Runway Moment

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Thanks to Bob Condotta of the Seattle times for posting the link to this video. As some of you may have seen the still pictures of the new uniforms from the Spring Game on this site, here is a live look at a couple of players in the uni’s…..one being Jake Locker, and the other being Donald Butler (in #10 too, but all white).

A Chat With Scott Locker

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 At first glance, there is no mistaking that Scott is Jake’s dad. A fit guy with tons of energy, he looks like he could suit up at fullback and take on a couple of defenders to give his son time to throw. Scott is one of the most welcoming and genuine “good guys” you will ever meet, but he is also the first to admit he is “a blunt guy who will tell it like it is,” one reason he is so enjoyable to speak with. While he and the family waited for Jake to join the group after the Spring Game (Jake spent over an hour signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans), we had a lot of time to talk about many things Husky related, most of which is below.

Scott and his wife Anita live within 5 miles of most of their family in Ferndale, including his 3 brothers and his parents, Hugh and Barbara. He grew up in nearby Custer, Washington, and jokes that he remembers when he would drive to his school and not see one car along the way. He prides himself on being from the area, and loves the town he has called home all of his life.

Hugh, Barbara, Anita and Scott LockerAfter high school, Scott moved on to play football at Western Washington, where he played linebacker. “I was probably not in the right position for me” Scott says of his football experience at Western. “I was much lighter than I am now, and I just wasn’t a good fit for linebacker.”

Sports have always been a part of his life, and that led to him coaching football until Jake entered high school. “I had to stop coaching because it was important for me to go to all of Jake’s games,” Scott says. Scott also has two daughters; Alyssa, who is a freshman at Western, and Erika, who is a sophomore in high school. “Anita and I couldn’t be more proud of our kids.”

As Scott flips the burgers and re-fills cups out of the tap on the the back of the r.v., we got some of his perspectives on everything from the recruiting of his son to the last couple of years:

Q. How did Jake decide on coming to the UW?

A. We had just finished up the visit with OSU, and were heading down to Eugene to meet up with the rest of the family. Jake told me he now knew where he wanted to go, and I figured he wanted to become a Beaver because we had just visited there. I told him to talk to Anita first before he fully decided, and he said to me that he really wanted to go to UW and wanted to call Coach Willingham right then and there.”

Family was a huge reason Jake made that decision. It is what we hoped for, but we wanted him to make his own decision so we stayed out of it for the most part. He wanted his parents, grandparents, and the rest of his close family and friends to be able to come to his games. It has worked out great.

Q. Was there much consideration by Jake to go to USC?

A. We all didn’t feel it was the right fit. I don’t think there was much consideration to play there.

Q. What is one of your favorite memories from the last couple of years?

A. There has been some good ones, but the trip to Syracuse was definitely one of them. Over 50 of us from Ferndale flew out to Syracuse. Jake’s first game as a starter, on ESPN at night, and Jake and the team played unbelievable. We had the best time on that trip. It was a great way to start his career and having all of our friends and family–it’s one of my favorite memories.

Q. Jake has a lot of attention on him and has become a local celebrity in some ways. How has that been to handle as a parent?

A. Yeah, it can be a little odd sometimes. The fans are great, but sometimes it can get to me after a game when people are trying to talk to Jake and giving me dirty looks and telling me to wait my turn. It’s like ‘hey, that is my son and I am going to go see him.’

Q. Is it tough to hear fans yell inappropriate comments at games?

A. For the most part the fans we sit around are great and supportive of the team and Jake. Sometimes we hear things in the stands at away games. Anita had someone at the first game of last season tell her that they were going to ‘kill locker’ tonight (because she had Jake’s jersey on), but once we told them we were Jake’s parents, they were shocked and were nice the rest of the game. They were very complimentary of Jake afterwards.

Q. Jake has taken some well publicized and controversial hits. How do you react as a parent?

A. You never like to see your kid get hurt. I have always told Jake to go out of bounds, and that he doesn’t have to prove how tough he is to anyone. He then tells me “Dad, you wouldn’t have ever gone out of bounds.”

There is one hit that bothered me–I’m not going to talk about that one anymore though. I got in trouble for talking about it in the past. Let’s just say it was hard to witness that, but I was glad I was there and I know Jake won’t change how he plays. There was a hit out of bounds that sticks out in my mind as one I was pretty angry at. There have been a handful of hits on Jake that I felt were uncalled for. One was a severe facemask. Luckily it rotated around and didn’t hurt him because he has a small head! I was pretty hot when those happened. That’s my kid out there, you know? Good thing I wasn’t the coach–if I was the coach in some of those instances I would have told my O-Line I wouldn’t care if they got called for a penalty, but that they needed to make sure the other team knew they weren’t going to tolerate that kind of treatment of their quarterback. The other teams like to use Jake to send a message because he is the leader. It may make me see red, but I know it comes with the territory.

Q. You have always been the dad that tells his son to “act like you have been there before” and not celebrate in the end-zone. What words did you have for Jake after the BYU game?

A. Jake and I were talking after the game as we always do, and he said he was sorry it happened. I told him he had nothing to be sorry for. I told him what he did was totally acceptable, and I knew that he had done nothing wrong. He was excited. Hey, he is a strong kid so throwing it that high (inadvertently) was understandable. He was just celebrating a heck of a play and wasn’t showing anyone up. He had just willed the team to victory. It was an amazing last drive and he deserved to be excited. There is no way there should have been a penalty called. You can see on video how surprised he is when he heard it over the loud speakers that the penalty was on #10. It was a good thing I wasn’t the coach because I would have been thrown out.

Q. Did you hear what Charles Barkley had to say about it?

A. Yes I did. That made me laugh. The ironic part of it all was the next weekend I watched another Pac-10 game and one of the guys scores a touchdown, throws it up in the air, realizes what he had done, and then catches it and hands it to the officials. And no penalty was called.

Q. At the start of last year, Jake didn’t appear himself. Was the hamstring injury affecting him?

A. You could tell that it wasn’t Jake out there (against Oregon). He could barely run but he still played and didn’t complain. He wasn’t able to be himself and he never really got his speed back–he wasn’t playing at 100%. But he is a competitor and wanted to be on the field with his teammates.

Q. So he fights through the injury in some tough games, and then ends his season when he broke his thumb on a block against Stanford. How did you all handle it, how did he handle it?

A. It was tough. I’ll never forget looking at his thumb and hearing from the doctor how broke it was. The bone in his hand was broke in 11 pieces and had to have a bunch of small pins inserted. But, he worked hard getting back and he feels really good. He feels as good as he has in a long, long time and it will show. We are really excited for this year.

Q. What are your feelings about the new coaching staff?

A. The kids love that the staff really followed through with their promise of a clean slate and they get to compete for their spots. The coaches also had the parents in for a meeting prior to the Spring Game where they talked about competing and about confidence of the kids. They have a great approach and the kids are excited, and the parents have taken to this staff because we believe they will get the job done.

 

 

ESPN: Jake Locker one of Spring’s Breakout Players

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Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com labels Jake as one of the “Top Ten breakout players from Spring“. Feldman lists improving accuracy as a sign that Jake is “much sharper,” and says that the Huskies “could be a team that causes a lot of problems for the rest of the Pac-10.”