"Basically our focus is to lock down the quarterback," said inside linebacker Matt Ah You. "We've had coaches tell us that [Locker] is one of the best athletes they have ever faced. He's big and he's talented. He's 6'3", 220 pounds, and runs like lightening, so basically the entire Husky offense revolves around him. If you can shut him down you shut down their offense."
The Huskies do have other offensive weapons that are capable. However, Ah You is right; the success of the Husky offense revolves around the play of quarterback Jake Locker. During the Oregon game, Locker was 12-of-28 passing for only 103 yards. The longest pass of the game was a 16-yard strike downfield. The Washington passing game is what the Cougars, and future teams that face the Huskies, will force the Huskies to beat them with.
In 2007 Locker ran the ball 172 times from the quarterback position for 986 yards and 13 touchdowns and averaged 82.2 yards per game. He was the team's second leading rusher behind Louis Rankin, who rushed 233 times for 1,352 yards during his senior season.
"This week is going to be very important that everybody does their assignment and their assignment only," said Ah You. "If someone tries to do two assignments at the same time rather than focus on their job, that's when things start to get messed up. If everybody does their job we'll be fine. If not, then it will be a long game."
During his freshman season, Locker completed 155 of his 328 passes and averaged 171.8 yards per game. He threw 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The Husky offense is a similar scheme to what the Cougars just faced with Northern Iowa's offense.
"Our defensive scheme plays perfectly with this type of offense," said Ah You. "We have the opportunity for the two outside linebacker to help contain the outside, and the two inside linebackers to defend the [running back] dive. The 3-4-4 defense is perfectly designed for a team with this type of offense, which is similar to what we saw against UNI this past weekend."
Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham and offensive coordinator Tim Lappano want to use the leadership and talents of Locker as much as possible. The ride option, where Locker has the decision to either hand the ball off to the running back or keep it himself depending on what the defensive end does, is a staple feature within the Huskies' offense.
"They like to run their offense out of the option ride," said Ah You. "It's basically what we saw last week, but they execute it at a higher level. You have fast guys that are bigger that can execute their offense at a higher pace."
The Cougars have to play disciplined and be patient. Locker is going to have some success simply because it's going to be virtually impossible for defenders to completely contain a mobile quarterback with his abilities. Playing their assignments while not allowing the legs of Locker to catch them out of position is going to be key for the Cougar defenders.
"He's an athlete and is going to get his yards," Ah You said regarding Locker. "We just have to contain what he does. If we can limit him, then we can limit the offense, which is built around his abilities.
So'oto Chimes In
BYU outside linebacker Vic So'oto gives his thoughts on Jake Locker and the Huskies' offense in this audio interview.
Surrounding Locker at the skill positions are young and inexperienced players. The Husky offense utilizes three true freshman wide receivers in 5-foot-8-inch, 161-pound Jordan Polk, 6-foot, 195-pound Devin Aguilar and 6-foot-1-inch, 180-pound Jermaine Kearse. All three played against Oregon last week, and of the Huskies' young guns, Kearse lead with two receptions for 17 yards. Aguilar had one reception for 10 yards and Polk had one reception for seven yards.
The best passing results came at the tight end position with 6-foot-5-inch, 255-pound Kavario Middleton, who is also a true freshman.
Middleton led all receivers during the Oregon game with eight catches for 67 yards. However, preliminary reports indicate that Middleton may not suit up for the next contest with the Cougars due to injury.
At the running back spot, the Huskies have a talented call carrier. However, much like the receiving corps, 5-foot-11-inch, 200-pound starting running back Chris Polk is also a true freshman and is looking to gain more experience with every game. Polk ran 14 times for 19 yards, averaging 1.4 yards per carry in his debut again the Ducks, but those stats are not indicative of what his potential truly is as a ball carrier.
"I would characterize their running back as having both speed and finesse," said Ah You. "He had around 2,500 yards as a senior running back in high school, so we know he can run the ball. We have to contain him as well as make sure we contain their quarterback who can also run."
The Huskies like to utilize their running backs out of the option ride formation, but they also mix up the formations and personnel depending on what they want to try and accomplish. They will use split backs, a single back, or an I-formation?
"They do all of it," said Ah You. "All of it. They like to line up their quarterback in a shotgun formation and run the ride option. It's just like what we saw last weekend with UNI. We have to contain and do our job. As long as we do that we'll be fine."
Outside linebacker Coleby Clawson gives his insight into the Huskies' offense and what the Cougars can expect with their next opponent.