Locker Era officially begins

Not only did Jake Locker look the part of Washington's future starting quarterback, but he sounded the part after the Huskies' initial spring practice, held Monday. A stiff breeze failed to dampen the Huskies' enthusiasm as they took the field at Husky Stadium for a two-hour workout in shorts and shells.

The wind was strong enough to turn over a piece of equipment known as a 'shute' - typically used by offensive linemen to help their pad level - and roll it at least fifty feet, where it finally came to rest right under the base of the jumbotron at the east end of the field. Loose pages from a practice book were torn loose from its binder and strewn across the Husky Stadium field turf like large strips of confetti.

"It's the one piece of weather I don't appreciate, but any weather I'm going to play," linebacker Dan Howell said after practice, noting the difficulty a heavy wind plays with the ears.

"There will be Saturdays when it's blowing like that, so we have to get used to it," added Locker.

To the media on hand, as well as the 30-40 recruits and coaches that were watching on the sidelines, all eyes were trained on the sophomore quarterback from Ferndale, waiting to see chinks in the armor or a moment when he might get flustered by a strong pass rush during 9-on-9 or 11-on-11 sessions. And Locker passed the test, if only for one day. The highlight of the practice session was a 77-yard touchdown run on an option play that saw Locker outrunning the defense once he found open field.

"He's got wheels," Howell said, matter-of-factly. "He's definitely a talented quarterback. He has all the tools he needs to become a great quarterback at this school. I'm really excited to see what he can do."

"He outran everyone at the point where there was no whistle," added UW Head Coach Tyrone Willingham. "It was good run."

"The offensive line blocked it really well," Locker said of the play. "It was a read-zone play and the defensive end sunk (in), so I just kept the ball and ran around the corner and no one was there. They made my job easier. They made me look good."

Locker - who had a chance to be thrown into action last season, but ended up not playing, carefully chose his words when asked to critique his own play on the day. "It was a start, going into a camp as the number-one guy," he said. "I got to work with the first team and I really enjoyed that. But I'm not satisfied with how I did, I have a lot that I need to improve on. I'm going to focus on that and try to improve every day."

Good, but nowhere near ready. It's about what you might expect from a quarterback that has yet to take a snap of Division-I football. But Locker has not only been put in the position of having to get ready to possibly play, but he's also taken advantage of a system of practice implimented by Willingham that has true freshmen participating alongside starters, allowing them to pick up bits and pieces while not necessarily under the normal pressures associated with starting.

"That has allowed him to benefit from being around it," Willingham said. "And when you are going into a ball game knowing you can play, your body and mind have a different response. There's more of a conscious effort to know the little things. All those things have allowed him to be farther along in the process."

"Those two or three weeks when I was in the mix (to play last year), I don't think that there's any question that those weeks benefitted me," Locker added.

But there's a big difference comparing where Locker was last year to where he is today. "I've spent a year here, but I haven't really spent any time working intensely with the guys I'm working with now," he said. "I feel like that this is the time right now when I can earn that respect, do everything right. I'd like to believe I'm a leader, but I'm not the judge of that."

But Willingham is, and said Thursday that Locker would start if the Huskies played a game tomorrow. With an incumbent (Carl Bonnell) already in place, it's a testament to Locker's potential, potential that was on full display. And while there were definitely no problems with his legs, it was Locker's right arm that apparently didn't match up. "I was kind of sporadic," he said of his throwing. "I'd complete a pass and then overthrow one by a lot or miss my target, so I need to get a lot more consistent, make my reads quicker, get the ball to my receivers and let them make plays."

He also threw an interception - to linebacker E.J. Savannah - but in watching Locker move to the next play, you would have been hard-pressed to believe that he has not played one live snap of college football to date. "I have confidence in my abilities," he said. "I feel that if you don't, you shouldn't be here. But by the way I performed today, I've got to do better. I'm not worthy of that after how I played today, so I plan to go out the next couple of days and prove that I can be that guy."
Notes:
All energy all the time: Willingham acknowledged Monday that he looks for some very basic things the first day of spring, and the team delivered with a solid, if not unspectacular practice. "I really didn't see a lot of bad things, but it wasn't a perfect practice," he said. "There was a lot of enthusiasm out there. The things I'm looking for the first day are energy and effort and I thought those things were in place."

"We had a high tempo today," added Howell. "Coach (Willingham) said it was a good start, but we wanted it to be a great or amazing start. We're going to go fast, we're going to go hard all the time. Getting tired is not an issue." The senior from Newhall, Calif. led with energy and intensity all day long, highlighted by a very brief scuffle with running back Louis Rankin, who Howelll shoved to the ground after Rankin gave him a healthy shove after a play was over.

New names thrown into the mix: New quarterbacks Ronnie Fouch and Chandler Clemons got their first taste of Division-1 football Monday, and competed well despite a rudimentary knowledge of the Huskies' offensive playbook. "To ask them to have any command of the system the first day having only been here two weeks is pretty good," Willingham said of Fouch and Clemons. "We had a good time with them," added Locker. "They are down to earth. They did very well for the first day even though they had a lot thrown at them in a short amount of time. They looked pretty comfortable for a first day."

Right now Fouch and Clemons are running third and fourth on the quarterback depth chart behind Locker and Bonnell.

Huard making his mark: New Offensive Graduate Assistant Luke Huard worked his first official practice Monday, and all of it was geared toward the four quarterbacks. The former QB from North Carolina - and younger brother to former UW QB's Damon and Brock Huard - earned instant praise from Locker. "It's really nice having him around," Locker said of Huard. "He's a great guy and he knows a lot about the game, especially quarterback. He understands the game and the speed of the game and what's going on - what I'm seeing. He's able to give me advice - quarterback-specific stuff that really helps me out."

Almost perfect attendance: The only name player that didn't participate in a majority of drills was senior offensive tackle Erik Berglund, who is apparently battling a sore hamstring, according to Willingham. Because of Berglund missing some action, sophomore OL Cody Habben worked at both tackle spots.

Depth Chart Nostradamus: The pre-spring depth chart was basically on the money all day long, except for the note above when Habben replaced Berglund. Ben Ossai, Morgan Rosborough (slimmed down from 375), Juan Garcia, Casey Bulyca and Chad Macklin led the offensive line (from left to right), while Greyson Gunheim, Jordan Reffett, Wilson Afoa and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim led the DL (from right to left).

Depth drought: The eight defensive backs listed in the depth (Jason Wells, Jay Angotti, Mesphin Forrester, Darin Harris, Jordan Murchison, Matt Mosley, Roy Lewis and Desmond Davis) were the only DB's to work with UW DB's coach J.D. Williams. The four running backs (Louis Rankin, J.R. Hasty, Paul Homer and Luke Kravitz) were the only four running backs to work with UW RB's coach Trent Miles.

Feelin' Lefty: Junior kicker Ryan Perkins practiced punting today - left-footed. Perkins, who is ambidextrous, will kick with his left foot while his right leg continues to heal from an ACL tear suffered during last year's spring game. While his kicks lack consistency from the left side, Perkins has the ability to put a charge in the ball that can produce a perfect spiral.

Will the Midas Touch return?: Willingham was asked if the gold jerseies - signifying exemplary performance from the previous practice - would come back starting Tuesday, and he would neither confirm nor deny what might happen. "We'll look at it tonight, see exactly how the practice was, and away we go," he said.

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