Tag Archives: Jake Locker

Hello Dawg Fans

To anyone still reading this nearly dormant blog, welcome to the 2011 season of college football and the first season for the new Pac-12 Conference.  This is a favorite time of year for the Good Guys, so you should start to see a lot more posts here.  Personally, I am finally done with the graduate school that’s kept me from posting for the past 8 months or so, and I’m looking forward to getting back to writing.

The Pac-12 season kicks off for everyone this week, with Arizona State and Utah both kicking off tomorrow and everyone else starting the season on Saturday.  The only real attention grabbers for the weekend are UCLA at Houston and the battle of off-season troublemakers between Oregon and LSU.  Everyone else plays an FCS or comparable team.  Not to say that all of the teams have a definite win, but even the Cougars should have a pretty easy go of it this week.

Reading through the multitude of Pac-12 previews over the last few weeks, the conference seems unsure, at least after Oregon and Stanford at the top.  Oregon, despite the offseason drama, is still as fast as anyone and a threat to return to the BCS championship.  Stanford has a few more questions after losing Jim Harbaugh and several receivers, but they still have Andrew Luck and as much or more talent as anyone else in the conference.  Expect these two to stay at the top of the league, perhaps meeting as undefeated teams later in the season. Unfortunately, both play in the new North division with the Huskies, meaning that only one of them can play in the new Pac-12 Championship.  Of course, if the Huskies want to play in it instead, they’ll probably have to beat at least one of these teams and win just about everything else.  More on them in a bit.

After those two, the pecking order is anything but clear.  In the south, there is talent with question marks.  ASU looked like the top dog, but they’ve suffered some major injury losses, and the Sun Devils haven’t met expectations since Jake the Snake was there, as far as I can remember.  USC still has excellent talent, but they’re banned from the postseason.  Utah is always good, but how they’ll transition to the Pac-12 is a big question.  Arizona could put up crazy passing numbers if they’re o-line holds up.  Even UCLA and Colorado seem like they could surprise, although each have big questions or weaknesses.  I could truly see just about any order of finish in the south, but none of these teams seem truly dominant.

There is similar uncertainty after Stanford and Oregon in the north.  California might have the conference’s top defense to go with some weapons on offense.  If new quarterback Zach Maynard can consistently get the ball to Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones and Isi Sofele provides a reasonable facsimile of Shane Vereen, they could easily surprise and make a bowl.  It’s hard to imagine Oregon State struggling for a full year, but the offseason has not been kind to them.  They lost Jacquizz Rodgers somewhat surprisingly to the NFL and will start the year with at least four starters out due to injury.  James Rodgers is among those who might return later in the year, so it’s quite possible this will be another season where the Beavers play good football by November.  They have questions on both lines even before the injuries, however, so I have my doubts.  Cougar fans have been talking for months about this being their season to break out.  Their schedule starts easy, and if they can beat San Diego State to go 3-0, they might have something this year.  WSU is definitely better than they have been, but I’m betting talk of a bowl game will prove to be wishful thinking.

That leaves us with the University of Washington.  They’re being picked anywhere from 3rd to 5th in the north, with projections of 6-8 wins.  That seems likely, with a couple of significant injuries the only real plausible path to fewer than 5 wins.  It’s become difficult to expect much out of the Huskies, but this might be the year that starts to change.  I remember a comment on a chat board somewhere saying that the Dawgs won’t really return to dominance until they have Pac-12 starter level players who are unable to get onto the field.  The Huskies are still too young for that to really be the case this year, but they’re getting closer.  Their talent level and depth is significantly better than it has been in years.  They have difference-makers at every position.  The question now is whether all of these players are actually ready to make a difference.  The offensive line needs to translate their talent into consistent performance.  The young linebackers on either side of Cort Dennison will have to grow up and make plays in a hurry.   Everyone else just needs to show consistency.  There is plenty of talent, but in past years it hasn’t always produced results.

After that, it comes down largely to one player: Keith Price.  If the rest of the team plays up to its talent-level, he only needs to be okay.  Manage the game, make most of his open passes, not do anything crazy and the team should be fine.  I think he can do that, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he does more.  Jake Locker was one of my favorite Huskies of all time, but realistically, he wasn’t that great last year.  Price should be able to produce similar, if not better, passing numbers.  However, like many great quarterbacks, Jake had the ability to get better and make plays when he needed to.  There’s no way to know if Price can consistently do that yet.  Probably, he can’t, but luckily there are plenty of others on the team who might be able to fill that void.

I don’t know what the actual over/under line is on regular season Husky wins.  If I had to guess, I would set it at 6 1/2.  I’ve talked myself into expecting 7-5 or 8-4 before a bowl game, and if everything broke right I could see even better than that.  It’s been 11 years since everything broke right for the Huskies.  I’d say they’re due.

-Matthew

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Glaring Similarities–2011 Huskies & Seahawks

The commonalities began last season, when Pete Carroll was brought in to lead the Seahawks. He brought a few USC guys, and we couldn’t help but notice that the Huskies had done the same thing one year prior with Sark and Holt. The 2010 seasons played out quite similarly, with both teams accomplishing much more than their record would have indicated; the Huskies went 7-6 and won the holiday bowl, while the Seahawks finished 8-10, won their division, and even came within 1 game of hosting the NFC championship. Nice accomplishments despite unimpressive records were not the only parallels.

Husky avg. margin of victory-9; won by less than a TD in 4 wins
Hawks avg. margin of victory-12; won by less than a TD in 3 wins

Husky avg. margin of loss-26.5; loss by more than 3 TD in 4 losses
Hawks avg. margin of loss-21; loss by more than 3 TD in 3 losses

Heading into 2011, the glaring similarities continue with our 2 local football teams. Here is a list I’ve compiled, without stretching it too far (i.e. yes, they both play in Seattle, and yes, both play on field turf)

1. Inexperienced QB following the exodus of a legend- Price following Locker, TJack following Hasselbeck

2. Emphasis on running the ball- A talented but young offensive line to create lanes for Polk and Lynch, both known for hard, all out style

3. QB waiting in the wings- 2012 draft or free agency as well as Montana/Lindquist/Miles

4. Strong receiving core- Kearse, Aguilar, Kasen, KSmith for UW, Rice, MWill, Tate, Obo for Hawks

5. Newcomers- WRs Kasen and Rice, TEs Sefarian-Jenkins and Zach Miller are the headliners

6. Focus on acquiring and developing bigger, faster, stronger athletes- The USC way!

7. Leadership void on defense, specifically MLB- Mason and Lofa are gone, both were vocal leaders, and heart of the defense

8. Counting on the class of 2010- Both 2-deep depth charts are littered with guys entering their 2nd year. This comes as no surprise, given that 2010 was Sark and Carroll’s first class of “their guys.” A few similar positions that come to mind are safeties Sean Parker, Taz Stevenson (UW) Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor (Sea). O-lineman Erik Kohler, Colin Porter, Ben Riva, Colin Tanigawa (UW), and Russell Okung (Sea). WRs Kevin Smith, DiAndre Campbell (UW) and Golden Tate (Sea).

9. Expectations- Had UW landed Jake Heaps, we might be talking about 8-9 wins, and if the Hawks re-signed Matt, the same would be true. As it stands today, 6-7 wins is the number I hear most for both.

10. 1-2 years away from championship contention- Ty Willingham and Tim Ruskell each left their program/team in shambles, meaning Sark and Pete inherited a major re-building situation. It looks as though each are building towards championship contention around 2012-13 (same with the Mariners!)

Other less notable similarities–Question marks at fullback and linebacker, possible strengths at tight end and D-line. Last but not least, the punting game looks promising!

-Dan

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Jake Locker NFL Combine update

Jake Locker took the field today to compete in the annual NFL Combine. I watched all of his drills, along with the other QB’s. I thought Jake looked good, in fact his mechanics are different from the last game he played in the Holiday Bowl. His strides are more even, smoother. His throwing motion is slightly tweaked, but his footwork is so much better, it’s improving his accuracy. Jake still has a ways to go, he obviously needs to do it in a real game situation, but overall he has really impressed the scouts. He’s been solid in the interviews, which many teams weigh more than anything else at the combine.

I love his devotion to competition and hard work. Additionally, he has absolutely no character problems in the past or present, unlike Cam Newton who continues to not speak about his past because he knows his past is full of sketchy situations NFL teams will clearly not like.

Here are a couple videos from NFL Network you may like showing Jake at the combine. First with Brian Billick and Mike Mayock before the workouts and the second after Jake’s workouts.

-Joe

PS – I’m in a good mood upon hearing Mike Mayock interview Jake because it made me remember Mayocks amazing call of the famous Marshawn Lynch Beast Quake run. It never gets old!

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Montlake Jake

Jake Locker was a part of Husky football long before he enrolled at the University of Washington in 2006.  His legend, of a state champion quarterback with lightning feet and the size and toughness to be recruited as a safety by USC, had long since rolled south from Ferndale.  He was Montlake Jake before stepping on campus, destined to resurrect a football program suffering through its worst seasons in decades. 

The legend only grew when he turned down major league baseball, something that his almost predecessor Matt Tuiasosopo didn’t do several years earlier.  He spent 2006 redshirting, to some controversy.  The team could have used him, and many were concerned that Jake would be gone to the NFL as soon as he became eligible.  Regardless, it was no surprise when he easily won the starting job in 2007 and made his debut at Syracuse.

It was everything Husky fans had hoped for.  Jake ran up and down the field, showing the lightning speed and strong arm that had so long been rumored.  He wasn’t polished by any means, especially his passing, but that was to be expected from a freshman making his first start, and it wasn’t hard to imagine him leading the Huskies to a Rose Bowl win a few years later before becoming the first pick in the draft.  The talent was that obvious, that mind-blowing.

And then things didn’t quite go to plan.  2007 was respectable but disappointing, more from a team standpoint than individual.  Expectations were fairly high coming into 2008.  The Huskies started the year with losses, none more devastating than against BYU, where the now infamous celebration penalty against Jake cost the Huskies a possible win.  Still, Jake’s passing looked improved, and the poise he showed in leading that last minute drive against BYU would surely be put to better use down the road.  In the fourth game of the year, against Stanford, everything fell apart.  Jake broke his thumb while blocking, and stayed on the sidelines for the rest of the year.  The rest of the team spiraled lower than anyone thought possible.  Tyrone Willingham was fired but allowed to coach the rest of the season, and the team lost all will to fight.  They went winless, even falling to the equally hapless Cougars in the Apple Cup.  Some argue that the talent on that squad was better than most winless teams, but few teams have ever been as low emotionally as the 2008 team was to end the season.

2009 brought a new coach in Steve Sarkisian and a new attitude, along with Locker’s return.  The turn-around they made that season now seems nothing short of remarkable.  Central to the season was an astonishing upset against #3 USC, as Jake calmly led UW down the field for a last second field goal to win.  The season was up and down, ending in five wins, but the Huskies won their last two against WSU and Cal in dominating fashion, leading to huge expectations for 2010 and that potential #1 spot in the draft for Locker, if he wanted to leave early to take it. 

No one would have been a bit surprised if he had left, and the national media had pretty much written him off as a former Husky, when he walked into Sarkisian’s office with his new dog, Ten, and nonchalantly announced that he was coming back for one more year.  Fans started talking of the Heisman and winning eight or nine games, a juggernaut offense behind Jake, Chris Polk and Jermaine Kearse a seeming certainty.

The only problem was that the team just wasn’t that good yet.  The offensive line, along with the rest of the offense, struggled, and the defense was inconsistent.  The Huskies lost a winnable opener to BYU, beat Syracuse, and then got crushed by Nebraska.  They beat USC again and won a thriller at Husky Stadium against Oregon State, but Jake spent the second half of the season nursing broken ribs and the Huskies dropped three straight to a murderer’s row of Arizona, Stanford and Oregon to fall to 3-6.  Even with three winnable games remaining, hopes for a bowl game were nearly gone, and Jake’s reputation had taken a major hit during an inconsistent and lackluster season.

Then UCLA came to town on a cold Thursday night.  It was close for the first half of the game before UCLA began to fall apart.  UW seemed to grow up that game, sensing the victory was theirs to take, and they finally took it.  By the end it was a laugher, with the Huskies pounding on a completely inept Bruin offense.  The Huskies next went to Berkley in a faceoff of two teams trying to keep their bowl hopes alive.  Cal’s offense was nearly as bad as UCLA’s, but UW had a difficult time against a stout Bear defense.  Trailing by three in the final minutes, Jake again took over.  Clearly still hampered by the rib injury.  He threw a long pass that Kearse made a great play on en route to moving the Huskies to the goal line in the final minute.  The Bear defense stopped them there, however, and it looked like the Huskies would settle for a field goal to tie it.  Sarkisian decided otherwise, and in a play that may have single-handedly restored Husky football  to its traditional state of toughness and excellence, Chris Polk plunged through the line untouched, and the Huskies were 5-6 going into the Apple Cup.

Jake again wasn’t perfect against the Cougars, throwing an interception just before halftime that made a close game out of what probably should have been a blowout.  Polk made the difference, though, running for 284 yards, and the Huskies found themselves in the now familiar spot of having the ball in the final minutes of a tie game.  Locker and Polk again marched down the field, and Jake threw a perfect pass to Kearse for a go-ahead touchdown. 

The Huskies would play in the Holiday Bowl.  Montlake Jake’s legend was cemented in Husky lore.

No one expected a win in the Holiday Bowl rematch against Nebraska, and now, of course, no one will ever forget it.  The team seemed to finally take on the full personality of Jake Locker, dominating with their toughness, playing loose and aggressive and fast.  They exerted their will and did whatever was necessary to win.  When Jake found no open receivers for nearly the entire game, he calmly threw the ball away or scrambled for first downs.  The offense came differently, with a pass from Jesse Callier to Locker, and then Polk and Locker ripped the heart out of the Cornhuskers as they ran over and through their vaunted defense.  Mason Foster, in many ways Locker’s twin on defense, led an effort that saw the Huskies dominate the line of scrimmage and limit the Huskers to under 150 yards of total offense before a late desperation drive brought the total to 189.  Before that last drive, the defense held Nebraska to an incredible -36 yards in the fourth quarter. 

The final score was 19-7, but the domination was greater than even the score would tell

Now, the legend of Montlake Jake is complete.  It didn’t end in a Rose Bowl win or national championship, there is no Heisman, and Jake won’t be the #1 pick overall.  And yet, I don’t know that The Jake Locker Era could have been any more satisfying if all that had come true.  It feels as though it took a complete collapse that sent this football team to the lowest place imaginable for Jake Locker to get a chance to show who he is and what he could do.  This team was remade in his image.  For all his physical gifts that fans will marvel about for decades, what will be most remembered is his calm eyes in the biggest moments, his toughness, his loyalty, and a level of character not often seen in college football.

College football is the ultimate fan sport, and only so often do players come along that connect with the fans on a special level.  The only such Husky I remember is Marques Tuiasosopo, whose charisma and late game heroics will be etched in my mind forever.  I wasn’t quite old enough to have those type of ties with the early ’90’s teams, although I’m sure there are plenty who do.  My dad seems to remember Sonny Sixkiller that way.  Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson were certainly that on the basketball court.  Reggie Williams and others had the onfield talent and production to be remembered, but for whatever reason, there was never quite the connection with the fans that moved them to that other level.

Jake Locker is that kind of player who will be remembered forever by anyone who watched him these past four years.  His physical talents were incredible, but it is our good fortune as football fans that the intangible gifts that separated him from others are what also allowed him to bring Husky football back from the dead. 

Jake Locker is everything we could ever want a football player to be.  There will never be another Montlake Jake, but his legend will live forever.

-Matthew

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Holiday Bowl Preview

The Huskies play the Nebraska Cornhuskers in about 4 hours.  Quickly, here are 5 keys I have to the game.

  • Stopping the run. The Huskies are playing with a depleted defensive line, missing 3 guys who played a significant amount of time this year.  They’re going up against a gigantic offensive line that Nebraska has.  We saw one result earlier in the year in which the Huskers ran away from the Dawgs.  If the Huskies want to have a chance tonight they can’t get ran over by Nebraska.  Expect the Huskies to load the box and force Taylor Martinez to pass.  Cort Dennison will get to play in this rematch, which has to help a little bit.  Nebraska will get their rushing yards, but we can’t let them go crazy like they did in September.
  • Limit the big plays. This killed the Huskies in the first meeting.  There were too many missed tackles, and Nebraska took advantage.  There were too many turnovers, and Nebraska took advantage. Yes, Nebraska had a few sustained drives, but most of their scores came on quick strikes.  We have to limit those this time around.
  • Start Fast. The Dawgs fell into a 14-0 hole last time against Nebraska and never could climb back into it.  They need to at least keep pace with the Huskers this time, and getting some early momentum would be huge.  We have most of the intangibles on our side, if we get some momentum this would be huge for our team.
  • Establish the run. The Huskies only success in the last game against Nebraska came by running the football.  The running game has been the bread and butter for the Huskies 3 game winning streak and it needs to be again tonight.  We all remember how good the Husker secondary is so the running game needs to be established to loosen them up.  Look for Locker to run more than he has all season.  Which leads me to….
  • Jake Locker. Much has been made of Locker having a second chance against Nebraska.  In a way, it’s fitting.  Locker came to UW when it was at its lowest point and now they’re playing in a bowl game; Locker’s lowest point came against Nebraska and now he gets a chance for redemption in his final game.  I don’t see him laying an egg like he did the first time.  I don’t see him having an amazing game either.  It will be another, gritty Locker performance that we’ve all taken for granted.  His legacy is already completed, but if UW wants a chance in this game they need one more chapter written by this Husky legend.

In all honesty, I don’t see the Huskies winning.  I think they lose by 10 or 14, call it Nebraska – 37 Huskies – 27.  With that being said, don’t forget how great it is to be here.  Put on your purple, and be proud to be a Husky fan today.  Go Dawgs!

Andrew

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Locker Out for Saturday’s Game

Official word is out that Jake Locker will miss Saturday’s game against the University of Oregon.  Apparently the rib injury that has been bothering had progressed from a strain to a hairline fracture before last weekend, and now is a full-on cracked rib after the Stanford game. 

I don’t want to second-guess the doctors or anything, but this could be a case of the coaches picking their battles.  There’s no reason to doubt the diagnosis, and even the initial injury would keep most of the population off the field, but I’m betting Jake would say there’s not much difference in his pain level between now and what it was before the Stanford game.  It’s not a stretch to say the coaches are admitting that Jake Locker wouldn’t have much effect this upcoming Saturday. 

That might sound like an indictment of the coaches, but I don’t mean it that way at all.  There are plenty of other reasons to be on them, but I don’t think this is one of them (and I might be the only one with this interpretation of Locker sitting anyway).  The truth is that UW has little real chance of beating Oregon this Saturday.  Crazy things happen, but I can’t imagine a worse matchup for this struggling Husky team.  UW’s bowl chances will come down to winning their last three games, and I’d rather have Locker healthy for them (hopefully) than have him sacrifice more ribs to Brandon Bair and a hyped up Duck defense.

Keith Price will make his first start in Locker’s place.  Price has looked decent, but he’s only played in mop-up duty, aside from the touchdown pass he threw to Chris Izbicki when Locker was out of the game for a play early in the year.  If nothing else, this should be some good experience for Price for next year.  I can’t think of a worse situation in which to make your first start than Autzen Stadium against a #1 ranked Ducks team.  I’d expect a whole lot of Chris Polk and Jesse Callier, but I never expected Price to Izbicki, so who knows.

One thing’s sure: if Price pulls off the miracle upset, well, I don’t even know how to put into words how amazing that would be.  I’m literally sitting here trying to come up with a way to describe it.  Thinking about it will probably be the best feeling associated with this game, so feel free to hold off reality as long as you can.

-Matthew

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Player A vs. Player B

Player A:
158/265—59.6% completion; 2,033 yards; 14 TD/9 INT; 134.7 QB rating

Player B:
131/232—56.5% completion; 1,614 yards; 14 TD/4 INT; 131.4 QB rating

Surprisingly, player A, the one who has more pass yards, a better rating, and higher completion %, is Jeff Tuel of the 1-7 fightin’, scrappin’, WSU Cougars. Player B is, you guessed it…Jake Locker.

Of course, one stat line does not tell the whole story, and Locker has 200 more rushing yards than Tuel, but it is worth noting that Tuel, who is only a sophomore, is quietly putting up a nice season. Meanwhile, Locker and the Huskies are in the midst of a somewhat disappointing season, at least thus far. At 3-4, a bowl game is still within reach, but it is slipping away. Given the hype for the Huskies and specifically Locker heading into this season, his 5th at Montlake, one might have thought Jake would post some huge numbers. Locker has decent stats, he has taken care of the ball well, and in a couple games he has carried the team. The defense, not Jake Locker, deserves most of the blame this season, however, against Nebraska, Arizona State, and Arizona, he was not even the best quarterback on the field. Injuries aside, his inconsistency is a head scratcher, although that’s been the theme of this team.

It’s just been a weird year for the Huskies, with losses to BYU and Arizona State, but wins against USC and Oregon State. I posted a few weeks ago that Jake Locker’s massive potential will not be reached while at the UW, and unlike a guy like Kellen Moore, his best days are probably yet to come. But for a senior quarterback with an NFL future, a great coach and playcaller, a solid group of receivers, and a running game to compliment, you’d think his numbers could at least out duel Jeff Tuel.

-Dan

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Quick Husky Observations, Through 6 weeks

Positive observations—
– Chris Polk and Jesse Callier are an excellent backfield combo. They need more touches!
– Our margin for error is very, very small. It seems like the defense needs to hold the opponent under 24 points, while the offense needs to score more than 24. One of these two typically occurs each game, but having them coincide has been a challenge.
– Locker is one heck of a leader, and doing just about everything he can out there given the hand he’s been dealt. Jake deserves more. He deserves a bowl game, a defense that can occasionally shut out an opponent, an o-line that will protect him, and receivers that will catch the ball consistently.
– We have the right coach leading the program. Recruiting, developing, charisma, and of course in-game coaching, he has it all.

Negative observations—
– Our offense is great at times, and very out of sync other times. Inconsistency is a theme on this team.
– Defense lacks big play potential, and still does not have the athletes to fair well in pass coverage and – – Fundamentals leave much to be desired: tackling, pass catching, kickoff coverage to name a few
– Our defense is like the Mariners offense; multiple contributors must play above their ability, and timely plays need to be made in big situations. Typically this doesn’t happen.
– The void at tight end is being felt. Kavario Middleton took some plays off here and there, but he commanded attention, and had big play potential.
– There is still not enough speed on this team, especially on defense.
– Desmond Trufant is not the shut down corner we saw glimpses of last year, and Quinton Richardson has a few bonehead moments every game it seems. The secondary, which many had thought might be the strength of the defense, is not performing well.
– In a year where the Pac-10 is as strong as ever, the Huskies are close to getting lost in the shuffle, which also means the pre-season bowl hopes are fading quick.

To summarize, the Huskies have 1 predictable win (Syracuse), 1 unexpected win (USC), 1 predictable loss (Nebraska), and 2 toss up game losses (BYU and Arizona State). That leaves UW at 2-3, when 3-2 is probably what we had hoped for at this point. So of course there are more negatives that positives. . Of course, a win on Saturday will change everything!

-Dan

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