The Huskies have a real rising star in redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Locker. Locker, who was recruited by the Trojans coming out of Ferndale high
school in 2006 has received high praise from USC head coach Pete Carroll this
"The quarterback has just lit it up for a redshirt freshman, as good a first showing, first four or five games, as a guy could have," said Carroll.
The 6-3 225 pounder is a quarterback that can beat a team with his strong arm and his running ability. Locker has passed for 714 yards and six touchdowns and is the Huskies' leading rushing with 361 yards on the year.
Last week against UCLA Locker threw for 216 yards and four touchdowns and added 92 yards rushing. The Trojans defense has struggled in years past against mobile quarterbacks, and Locker will put a lot of pressure on the Trojans linebackers with his running ability.
"Jake does a nice job of finding guys when he's scrambling too," said Carroll. "He's not just a runner when he takes off so you have to really hold onto your coverage and then wait until he attacks the line of scrimmage before you can get out and go get him. He poses a lot of problems for us."
On defense the Trojans will key on Locker and try to keep him contained in the pocket. Locker has an unlimited amount of potential and if he is able to put it all together against the Trojans then the Huskies could keep the game close Saturday.
"We're going to have to do everything we can to slow him down and keep him from being the factor that controls the football game. I think he's that good," said Carroll.
While Jake Locker is the Huskies leading rusher, they do have a very capable running back in senior Louis Rankin. Rankin led the Huskies with 666 rushing yards last year and has received the bulk of the carries so far in 2007. Rankin had 147 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the Huskies season opening victory over Syracuse.
If the Huskies offense is going to have any success against the tough USC defense, then Louis Rankin and Jake Locker are going to have to come up big in the running game and keep the Trojans defense off balance.
The Huskies have a veteran group of receivers led by seniors Anthony Russo and Marcel Reese. Five of the top six receivers listed on the Huskies depth chart are seniors. The Huskies top playmaker at receiver is Russo. Russo started all of 2006 and was second on the team with 32 catches. Lat week against UCLA Russo had his best game of his career with five receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
Tyrone Willingham praised Russo for his play so far this year. "Anthony Russo is playing really well for us. He's had the last couple of ballgames for us. Maybe not the numbers that he would like, but he has been playing great football. I thought his last game at UCLA was one of the better ones that we have seen," said Tyrone Willingham.
6-3, 240 Marcel Reece is a physically imposing receiver for the Huskies and causes match up problems for smaller cornerbacks. Reece has emerged with 17 receptions and added two touchdowns so far this season.
Corey Williams and Quentin Daniels have also had touchdown receptions this season.
Tight end is another position filled with steady veteran players but no real stars for Washington. Just like the receiver spot the Huskies have several seniors battling for playing time at tight end. Seniors Michael Gottlieb, Johnie Kirton and Robert Lewis will all see action Saturday against the Trojans. The tight ends haven't been utilized much in the passing game to this point. Robert Lewis leads the tight ends with four receptions and Michael Gottlieb has two.
The Huskies returned both tackles and their center from last year's team. Center Juan Garcia is the Huskies best lineman and the clear leader for the group. This week the Huskies offensive line will have a tough challenge going up against one the best defensive lines in the nation. The best match up will be Juan Garcia going up against Trojan defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. Ellis doesn't get enough credit, but he is one of the Trojans best and most important players.
Look for the Trojans defensive line to stuff tailback Louis Rankin early and force Jake Locker to beat them with his arm.