Monday Press Conference Notes

Jake Locker (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

All the principals involved aren't talking about it; yet in many ways it's the only question worth asking now - will Jake Locker turn pro? With UW football finishing their season with nothing but pride on the line, fans are already looking ahead in anticipation, wondering if their junior quarterback will take the money and run to the NFL? Or will he stick around Montlake for one more season?

"No I'm not worried about that," Locker said, matter-of-factly, Monday when asked if he was thinking about this Saturday's game with California just might be his last as a Husky. With mock drafts and NFL experts like Mel Kiper, Jr. talking Locker up as arguably the best quarterback prospect available for the 2010 draft, the question will certainly persist until Jake is ready to talk.

His head coach, Steve Sarkisian, has been thinking about it. "It's going to be, embrace the day," he said. "I don't think he's worried about the emotions of what it might be."

Locker has until mid-January to decide whether or not he wants to submit his name for the draft. While he said he won't rush him, Sarkisian did say that he's got an opinion as to what could happen if Locker decided to stay for his senior season.

"It would be huge," Sarkisian said. "Be huge. I just think, not to toot our own horn, but I believe in our coaching style and our techniques and our mechanics and I believe in our schemes and I believe in the way we coach and the way we teach is as good or better than anybody out there. And that in and of itself I feel like we're the best thing for him.''

And while Locker and his UW teammates are just coming off a 30-0 whitewashing of their in-state rival Washington State, Sarkisian did talk about the idea of unfinished business playing an eventual part in Jake's decision-making process. "I do know Jake is a competitor," he said. "I do know his love for the university. And I do have a good idea of what he feels about this team, his teammates and the potential that we have. Look at this ball club right now and we are a 4-7 football team, and in four snaps could be a 7-4 team competing for second place in our conference this Saturday.

"So I think he realizes how close we are and how far we have come in a short amount of time and I think he really cherishes his time here and his teammates and loves this university so I think in the end, when all of the facts and all of the information comes in that's going to be part of the decision, sure.''

"It's meant a lot to me," Locker said when asked about UW, adding that he's always thought about winning the Heisman Trophy as well, given yearly to college football's best player. "It's a place where you're kind of forced to grow up; you're forced to make steps in life that aren't always the easiest ones, doing things without my mom and dad at home and learning how to kind of survive on my own. The people that were here and are here that have helped me get through that process, the good times and the bad, it means a lot to be able to spend your four or five years here and have those people around you and be able to be at this university and play at this university, and to be a part of this the rest of my life."

The Apple Cup showed glimpses of what could be with Locker. He was able to effectively combine his considerable running skills with a strong passing game from the pocket. "The better he's running the ball, the more the eyes are on him," Sarkisian said of his junior signal-caller, again noting comparisons to NFL Hall-of-Famer and Super Bowl MVP Steve Young. "That creates his ability to find windows and throw the ball down the field. That was evident. Any time you run the football and you can play-action pass and you can throw a post route over their head, it makes things a lot easier than when they know you're throwing it and you're dropping back and your mobility is limited for a variety of reasons, it can make things more difficult.

"In time, throughout his career here and as he moves on to the next level, he'll get more comfortable in the pocket. He'll get more comfortable understanding defenses and anticipating throws to where that won't be as much of a factor. But as this process is moving on, his ability to take advantage of his legs, to run, to help himself clear windows to make those throws, is something that he's relying on. Which is not a bad thing, a lot of guys have done that for years. But in time he'll get it. It'll be one where, then he'll become a real threat."

The last game of Washington's season means celebrating the careers of a few players that came to UW the same year as Locker - Senior Day. And the Huskies will honor 15 seniors: Donald Butler, Paul Dickey, Joshua Gage, Paul Homer, Tripper Johnson, Darrion Jones, Danny Morovick, Ben Ossai, T.J. Poe, Morgan Rosborough, E.J. Savannah (applying for a sixth year), Nick Scott, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Trenton Tuiasosopo and Jason Wells.

"When you leave your parents' home and you get in that car and you come to the University of Washington, everyone has the biggest of the big dreams," Sarkisian said. "You dream of national championships. You dream of conference championships. You dream of the great wins, the memories. You dream of going on to play in the National Football League. And obviously, our senior class, that's not how their careers played out. They've been through some really tumultuous times, some very adverse situations.

"But to their credit, since I've been here, since the day I've showed up, they've been nothing but tremendous leaders to our young kids, they've come to work every day and battled and competed. I'm appreciative of the fact that they've done that, because that's not an easy thing to do. And I'm happy for them that they've gotten some really special moments of their senior year that they're going to carry with them for a lifetime. And that's what college athletics is about. Whether it's the fans storming the field after the USC game to a great comeback versus Arizona to the Apple Cup their senior year and a shutout win, those are memories that are going to be with this young men for a lifetime. And hopefully, we can give them one more in their last visit to Husky Stadium."
Notes:
Ticket offer in tribute to slain officers: Sarkisian had this announcement to make before the press conference began. "I'd like to start with a first, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the officers that were killed in Lakewood over the weekend," he said. "It's a tragic event. On a weekend such as this – Thanksgiving weekend – for something of that magnitude to occur to their families, very heartfelt. And I know that it's not just from our football program, but from the entire university. Our support of their families, and again, our thoughts and prayers are with them.

"With that, we'd like to, available to all active police, military and fire department personnel with identification, offer four complimentary tickets to all those to the Cal game on Saturday. You can call our come by the Husky ticket office Monday through Friday during business hours, or come to the ticket window on the northeast plaza at Husky Stadium on Saturday. Or you can call the ticket office at 206-543-2200 for information. For what you do, we are very thankful for that. It puts football in a perspective of what it means – we're all fortunate to live in this country, and be part of everything we're trying to get accomplished. What you do is recognized, and truly, truly invite you to this ballgame. Hopefully if any of you have the time to come, please join us. It will be a great afternoon for you and your families."

Chain Gang Injury Update: Sarkisian also wanted to send his thoughts and prayers to Brad Feagin, the member of the chain gang that was injured in the first half of the Apple Cup. Feagin had to be transported via ambulance to a nearby hospital, and Sarkisian said that he'll be OK after having surgery on Sunday. "I want to recognize Brad for all the work he's done for us, and the time he's put in," said Sarkisian. "And his family, our thoughts and prayers go out to them as well."

Sark's Thoughts on The Golden Bears: "As we head into this weekend, we're playing a very good football team in the California Golden Bears – an 8-3 team," he said. "Shocked they're only 8-3. You look at the film, they look like a top-10, if not a top-five football team. These guys are talented. They're athletic. They've got two tailbacks that are explosive in (Shane) Vereen and (Jahvid) Best. They've got an attacking defense, a tremendous secondary and physical up front – and a quarterback (Kevin Riley) who is capable of making some really big plays. So I think we definitely have our work cut out for us. I think the best and biggest advantage we have is playing this game at Husky Stadium, and we're expecting the atmosphere to be electric and as crazy as ever. And we're hoping that the weather forecast stays the way it's supposed to be, and that's 40 degrees and raining. So we're excited about that, to use that to our advantage." Sarkisian added that he expects Best to play, even though he's been out with a concussion since Cal's game against Oregon State back on November 7th.

Sark Talks USC-UCLA: The USC-UCLA game is always a fun one to watch, and this year's tilt took on some extra significance due to the way it ended. Up 21-7 and less than a minute left, USC took a knee. UCLA called time out. Taking that as a sign that the game wasn't over, USC quarterback Matt Barkley threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Damian Williams to defeat the Bruins 28-7. The play definitely rubbed UCLA the wrong way, but Sarkisian saw nothing wrong with what transpired. "I got a good chuckle out of it to be honest with you," he said. "I don't think either of them was worse. I thought it was the gamesmanship of the game and I think SC took a knee saying we think the game is over. UCLA took a timeout saying the game isn't over, so SC kept playing the game. I don't think anyone did anybody wrong and I thought both coaches handled it that way after the game."

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