For Locker, confidence is the key

It's a lot of pressure to have and entire football program thrown on your shoulders and being proclaimed the "savior" of a football program can't make things any easier, but if anyone can handle all those expectations it's Washington's sophomore quarterback Jake Locker. Heading into his first spring, Locker gave us his thoughts on what lies ahead for him and what fans can look forward to as well.

Running the scout team his first year on campus, "Montlake Jake", as many have referred to him since he committed to the Huskies, got valuable experience just getting used to the speed of the game and now he's ready to face the challenge of being named the likely starter for the Huskies as they head into spring practices. However, Locker said he isn't ready to accept any promotions just yet.

"You're never guaranteed anything," Locker said regarding head coach Tyrone Willingham's proclamation that he's number one on the depth chart. "I know that's what coach said and I'm grateful for that, but I also understand that there is still competition and nothing is etched in granite right now and jobs are still wide open.

"Right now my focus is going out in spring and just reinforcing that he made the right decision. I'm focused right now on going out and having the best spring that I can as an individual and improving the team."

Battling Locker for the starting spot will be a limited Carl Bonnell, last year's starter for the final five games of the season, and Locker welcomes the challenge this spring.

"Anytime you come to a division one college you're going to have competition," Locker said. "Coming in, we all knew that. You wouldn't be here if you didn't want to play and so, I think the relationship that me and Carl have is that we're good buddies and I respect him a lot and think he's a great quarterback and I've learned a lot from him in my time here.

"I think we both understand that, beyond going out and playing the best that we can, we have no control over who gets on the field, so there's no hard feelings either way. We're going to go out and do our best.

"Obviously, both of us want to start and that's our goal. So we're going to go out and do everything we can to do that. I'm hoping it's going to be me, but if it's him I'm going to give him as much support and give him as much help as I can during the process."

One of the biggest transitions for a quarterback, no matter the level, is learning the increased complexity of the defenses he'll face on a weekly basis. At times, young quarterbacks can think too much and not let their natural abilities take over. Locker admitted that aspect is the toughest thing for him right now, but he's got the confidence he needs to overcome the huge learning curve ahead of him.

"The part of the game I'm least familiar with is the drop-back passing stuff, and I just need to get comfortable and make quick decisions and being able to recognize what the defense is doing before and after the snap," Locker admitted. "That's where it all starts at because, if you know what they're doing you know what you have to do. I have to understand what the team on the other side of the ball is doing before I can understand where I need to go.

"I've spent a lot of time watching film and trying to become familiar with it. I feel really pretty good about it right now. The more repetitions I get it's going to make it easier and easier obviously, but I'm going to go in with full confidence in the spring and we've been doing 7-on-7 stuff for three months now and that helps out a lot to. I'm going to be confident going into spring, but I know it's still stuff I can still improve on and it'll make me a better quarterback if I do.

"I like to do a lot of thinking during the week and in the offseason and get all the mental stuff down then so you're comfortable with all those things so when you go out there you can just go out and have fun. I think that's when you get your best results, when you're not thinking and you're just reacting to things and making decisions without really processing things when they're going on. That's the point that I want to get to and obviously it's going to take some reps to get to that, but I like to play aggressive and when I step on the field I don't feel like anyone can stop me."

As the leader of the team, Locker was asked to give an overview of the outlook of the team and he started off by talking about his confidence level with his receivers.

"I haven't been here for any other springs, but I feel like everybody's really excited about next year and so we have a lot of guys out at the 7-on-7's," Locker said. "I'm not finding one or two guys that I'm necessarily getting comfortable with, I feel more comfortable with all of them which is far more important.

"I feel that any receiver that steps on the field with me I trust to throw them the ball if we need a big play on third down and I feel confident I can throw it to anybody and there's not just one guy that I'm going to go to with the ball.

"That's one thing that I think is a really important dynamic for the team. Just being able to trust everybody and have that faith that some people have in one receiver and I all have it in everybody and that's something we've developed this offseason."

He also added a comment about the team returning to the team's of the 80's that smacked opponents around when they stepped on the field against the Huskies.

"We have a lot of guys this year that want to bring the program back to the top 25 and being a hard-nosed team," Locker said. "This school's had a tradition for a long time of being a hard-hitting team and nobody likes to come in here because they get hit a lot and it's a physical team to play against.

"I think last year we worked toward putting that back in play and this year we want to get headed in that direction even more. That was one of the reasons that I chose to come here."

Offensive coordinator Tim Lappano is also the quarterbacks coach and he's spent a lot of time mentoring Locker and the two have formed a tight bond over the past nine months.

"Ever since I got here he's been there for me in anything," Locker said. "I can go and talk to him about whatever I want and he's always there to listen and to give me his advice so he's really made the transition a lot easier for me.

We try to get together at least three times a week. We go over plays and stuff in the meeting room and that's something that I'd never done before, that film thing, so that was a lot of fun for me and I think our relationship just gets stronger and stronger every day."

The hope is that that relationship, along with Locker's leadership of the team, will lead to a bowl bid and a top 25 finish. Can they do it? That question starts to get its answer starting Monday at Husky Stadium. Top Stories