Draft day comes and goes for Locker

Nuss, Sark and Locker (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

SEATTLE - Roger Goodell has already purchased his 'Locker Stalker' t-shirt; Mel Kiper, Jr. anointed the UW junior QB as the No. 1 draft pick in 2011 over a month ago, meaning Kiper - the oft-cited guru for NFL draft analysis - has already called his shot 13 months in advance.

But in true Montlake Jake fashion - he's a lot more interested in talking about the Huskies that might get drafted on Thursday than about his decision to return for his senior year.

"I'm just hoping to see probably tomorrow hopefully maybe today if Donald (Butler) can sneak into the first round and seeing if those guys get a chance," Locker said. "I know they will it just depends on where they are at. Donald, I came in with him, Daniel (Te'o-Nesheim) was a year older than me but played with him for four years fun to see them make the step to the next level. I'm excited for them.''

"I think they'll be great pros," added UW Head Coach Steve Sarkisian. "They both have tremendous work ethic, not only on the field but in the classroom. They love football, which I think is important when you become a professional. And they're both talented. They're going to make good pros. It's not just about where you get drafted in that league; it's about longevity."

Right now Locker is thrilled to be hearing his name called by Sarkisian and Doug Nussmeier instead of Goodell. "I've already told you guys," he said. "I have no regrets with the decision I made and I wont be thinking that I wish I could have been there, no way.''

It's doubtful Locker would have found himself in the same position Jimmy Clausen finds himself in Thursday night. Kiper had the Notre Dame signal-caller ahead of No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford, yet Clausen hasn't found a home yet. He's quickly becoming this year's Brady Quinn.

And Bradford, who did the same thing Locker did by foregoing the draft to come back for his senior season at Oklahoma, overcame a shoulder injury to be taken by St. Louis with the first pick of this year's draft.

"It validates the decision he made, and the reasoning for what he did, and the concerns that some people might have in questioning what he did," Sarkisian said of Locker's decision to stay. "To have Sam Bradford be the first pick in the draft, after having a season-long injury, and still be the first pick in the draft just discounts the theory, "What happens if you get hurt your season year, what's going to happen?" That theory is thrown out the window. The guy was the first pick of the draft."

"It's a good lesson for everybody that you can come back and play your senior year and still fulfill your NFL dreams and aspirations at the level you could have the year before, it's a good message for everybody in college football," Locker added.

And even though Locker and Sarkisian don't know how to react to Kiper's prognostication ("The pundits will say what they want to say. They've got to keep people interested; they're all watching TV," Sarkisian said), they are more than happy to talk about what's going on with UW football.

"I though today was really one of his better days," Sarkisian said of Locker. "He's really trying to take his game to another level of understanding our scheme, our philosophies and really understanding defenses. And in time you can really over think maybe a little bit that way. But he hasn't, he's played football really well, I think he's really again focusing on feeling comfortable in the pocket and throwing the football. We kind of haven't unleashed him running the ball this spring. The emphasis has been on throwing the ball again. And when we get into fall camp we'll back into him using his legs more."

And Jake? I'm sure he feels the next time he's asked about the NFL draft will be way too soon, even if it's this time next year. But make no mistake; by getting Locker as ready as he can to dominate his senior season, Sarkisian is setting Jake up for a 2011 NFL Draft Day to remember.

"I feel like we owe it not just to the quarterback, but every kid on our football team to get them prepared at least for the opportunity to play in the National Football League," Sarkisian said. "That's every kid's dream growing up, and that's what you strive for. I feel like part of this job is to get them prepared for that – not just Jake or anybody else in specific. It's all of our guys."
Notes:
Cox's words of wisdom to Butler: Linebackers coach Mike Cox has been in touch with Butler lately, and he talked about the things they have been discussing on the eve of the NFL Draft.

"I just told him from my experience the last couple of years to not expect anything and don't assume anything," Cox said Thursday night after practice. "Whatever happens, happens - and don't worry about it, because it's out of your control right now. The biggest thing I told him was to make sure he's in shape, because once you get drafted, once you sign, it's time to go and don't be lying around, because when they get you, they are going to work you pretty good right off the bat.

"I think he's going to be undervalued a little bit. He's a very good player, and maybe they've got to evaluate all the other middle linebackers out there. But he runs very well, he's smart. He knows all the positions, can play all three. He's very good in a 4-3 system. I don't think a 3-4 team will draft him. In the NFL, you only dress five or six guys on game day, so those guys have to know all the spots. He's is extremely smart, so he'll be able to do all that and he's athletic enough to do all that."

Injury Note on Jesse Callier: Sarkisian confirmed that Jesse Callier, one of the two true freshmen running backs, may likely be out for next Friday's spring game due to a sprained PCL. "It's pretty much precautionary as anything," Sarkisian said. "He'll be fine. It's not serious. Unless he's 100 percent, we're not going to play him."

With Callier out, that meant more reps for Johri Fogerson, as well as Demitrius Bronson.

Defensive lineman Alameda Ta'amu looked to hurt his left arm during the team period Thursday, but Sarkisian said he was OK. When asked if there might be anyone else out that have been injured - like receivers Jordan Polk and D'Andre Goodwin, Sarkisian was hopeful for their return before spring game.

"I'm hoping, they should be back," Sarkisian said. "They should be back my now. It's taking a little longer and it's been frustrating. I'm hoping we can get them on film. Hopefully Saturday even. Come fall we going to have two more young kids (Kevin Smith and DiAndre Campbell) in here that are going to be getting a lot of reps.

There were two more players in red today, outside of the usual suspects (Chris Polk, Cody Habben and Victor Aiyewa): Greg Walker (elbow) and Desmond Trufant (groin) were in red for Thursday's pads-and-shorts workout.

Is Izbicki ahead of Middleton?: The tight end battle between Chris Izbicki and Kavario Middleton was expected to be a heated one, and it has not disappointed. "I think we're getting better," Sarkisian said when asked about their blocking. "What I like about is our technique is a lot better than we were. Now becomes the really relentless effort the technique's there. Now is our ability to really play with great effort and finish in the run game is the next step."

But what about a leader in the competition for the No. 1 TE spot? "I would probably if I had to give Chris a little bit of the nod there," Sarkisian said. "I think Chris is playing really well. Not only blocking but he's had some lapses catching the ball, but for the most part he's been consistent. But I think they're both doing nice things."

More shuffling of the OL: Like Sarkisian said on Tuesday, the coaches moved offensive linemen around in spots to see what they looked like against other defensive linemen. It's all being done in an attempt to try and find the best combinations, the best chemistry, and the best overall fit.

"We mixed it up pretty good again," Sarkisian said. "We got (center Drew) Schaefer some work at right tackle, (right guard) Mykenna (Ikehara) got some center work again…we mixed it up pretty good, allowing guys an opportunity to show what they could do at all the spots.

Dan Kanczukowski saw some time at the No. 1 right tackle spot, while Skyler Fancher took reps with the twos. "We're seeing what it looks like. Again, a lot to times you go against the same guy over and over, and to see what does it look like when Danny has to block Talia (Crichton) per se, and what the speed is and how they react to the speed…and then also how they respond to the guy playing next to them, how's that relationship, how is the communication of it? It's just a matter of getting stuff on film so we can get a great evaluation, not only now but as we head into the off-season, to really look and study combinations and what guys do well."

Getting ready for Saturday: The team was in pads and shorts today, the first time they haven't been in full pads in four practices. Sarkisian said it's in preparation for Saturday's full-pads scrimmage. "We'll probably go anywhere between 80 and 90 plays, somewhere in there," he said. "It'll be a pretty hefty scrimmage. We'll work one special team phase - kickoff return - to try and save our legs and not do all the phases of special teams. We'll probably have some lengthy delays between series to get guys right. Hopefully we can get a fair amount of plays in."

Sark not concerned with Folk: Erik Folk has had a spotty spring, missing a 30-yard field goal during the team period on Thursday. "I'm not concerned," Sarkisian said when asked about the junior kicker. "He had a good year last year and he wasn't stellar last spring. This is an opportunity for those guys to work the battery combination. It's not just the kicker; it's the snap the place and the kick. And it takes time to find that rhythm. He'll get it. He'll be fine."

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