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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Slamming UW’s Locker

Washingtons Jake Locker scores on a 14-yard run in the first quarter against Brigham Young on Saturday, September 5, 2008. Brigham Young won 28-27. (Joe Barrentine/Tacoma News Tribune/MCT)
Washington’s Jake Locker scores on a 14-yard run in the first quarter against Brigham Young on Saturday, September 5, 2008. Brigham Young won 28-27. (Joe Barrentine/Tacoma News Tribune/MCT)

Meet University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker. He’s big, he’s fast, he can throw and he’s coming to a TV near you.

“”Anytime you have a player to build your team around like Jake Locker, you have a chance (to win games),”” head coach Mike Stoops said of the Washington quarterback. “”I think he’s as good a player as there is in college right now. He’ll be a big emphasis, obviously, this week (in practice).””

The high praise is well-deserved, especially considering what Locker did against the Wildcats in 2007.

As a freshman, Locker made the country take notice by torching Arizona on the ground with 157 rushing yards and in the air with 336 passing yards — including a 98-yard touchdown pass.

Locker’s star shines as brightly as any other player’s in the country, but his success has been muddled by his team’s failures. The Huskies were a combined 4-21 in his freshman and sophomore seasons under head coach Tyrone Willingham, including an 0-12 record in the 2008 season, in which Locker broke his wrist in week five.

But a lot has happened between Locker’s injury against Stanford last year and today.

The UW fired Willingham and replaced him with 35-year-old Steve Sarkisian, a former USC offensive coordinator. Sarkisian lit a fire in Seattle, Wash., and after crafting an offensive scheme around Locker, the Huskies have gone from Pacific 10 Conference basement-dwellers to beating USC in one year.

“”It’s a different team, obviously,”” defensive coordinator Mark Stoops said. “”A much different coaching staff and different approach to the game, but (Locker) is a phenomenal football player. You’ve got to be really clued in to all of their offense.””

Locker possesses the athleticism to scramble for effective yards, the toughness to challenge defenders while running and one of the strongest arms in the nation. Locker was always a talented player, but what’s lifted him to elite status is the tutelage of Sarkisian, who has transformed the junior from a desperate playmaker to a patient, polished passer — who can also run like a tailback if he needs to.

“”I think people kind of laughed at you when you compared him to (Florida quarterback Tim) Tebow a couple years ago, but watch him play — there’s not a throw on the field he can’t make,”” Mike Stoops said. “”This kid may be the best quarterback in the country. We’re talking about the number one quarterback. When you start comparing him to Sam Bradford, you’ve got to be pretty special. He possesses some arm strength, some throws that a lot of guys can’t make. He just flicks the ball and it gets there very quickly.””

High praise, but the comparisons don’t stop there.

“”I don’t want to get crazy, but he’s got a (John) Elway type of release and arm strength that not many people have, he can make throws that a lot of people just can’t do physically,”” Mike Stoops said. “”His mobility makes him a lot (like Elway). John was a lot of that when he was younger — just his ability to move and run around. He’s a legitimate threat with the football.””

Locker has a bright future in football, according to draft experts, as he is projected as a mid-to-late first round pick in this year’s NFL Draft and perhaps the No. 1 overall pick if he stays for his senior season.

If that doesn’t work out, though, he could always play baseball. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim picked him in the 10th round of the MLB Draft this past summer.

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