Locker is ready to take the next step

It's pretty telling how important QB Jake Locker is to the Washington football program. Every time the young man from Ferndale makes an appearance where media is present, he's surrounded by reporters three-deep hanging on his every word. The spring kickoff press conference was no different and, like a seasoned pro, the redshirt sophomore held court and deftly answered every question.

"I don't see it so much as pressure on me, but pressure on us as a team," Locker said when asked how much pressure he feels to help Washington get back to its winning ways. "I mean, we've been working hard and we know what is at stake for us.

"Honestly, I don't even read the newspapers or the internet. Unless I hear it second-hand, I don't really know about it, but I really think we have higher expectations of ourselves and what we can achieve than what anyone can say about us.

"It's not about saving anyone's job or anything like that. It's about us improving as a team and working hard toward a common goal. If we do that, everything will work out how it is supposed to."

The subject of Locker's dalliance with baseball came up in a passing comment by one of the reporters and it was followed up on by another reporter who had just sat down next to Locker.

"I got a call from my high school coach and he's coaching the (Bellingham) Bells this summer and he asked me if I wanted to play," Locker said. "I told him I couldn't make that kind of a time commitment, because football is my first priority and that hasn't changed, but he told me they'd let me play anytime I had the time.

"Any commitment I have to the football team, I will honor it. Any commitment I have to myself, to get extra time in for football, I will honor it. So, pretty much only weekends and anytime I have time off away from football, he said I was welcome to play with their summer team league team, so it was a chance for me to play a sport that I loved playing as a little kid."

After being the "new kid" in Washington's offense in 2007, Locker has quickly become one of the elder statesmen of the group, but he isn't worried about what lies ahead for the inexperienced, yet talented, group of players who will be flanking him this spring and fall.

"I think we'll have a lot of guys who will be able to step up," Locker said. "Obviously Brandon (Johnson) played a little bit last year and he had some success in the games that he was in, so he'll be a guy we'll be looking at to fill that spot.

"We had a couple of redshirt freshman last year that are talented guys who needed to develop a little bit physically and they'll be able to do that over the offseason.

"I think this group of receivers has a chance to really stretch the field a lot. Guys like (Anthony) Boyles and Curtis (Shaw) and D'Andre Goodwin and then some of the guys that are coming in, they should all be able to fit in. They just need to get a good feel for the offense and what we need from them. I'm excited about their potential."

As a first-time starter, Locker struggle some with his accuracy and he admitted a 47% completion rate won't get the Huskies to where they want to be and he's been focused mainly on correcting different aspects of his passing.

"Well, I didn't really work on my mechanics at all this winter," Locker said. "But I did focus a lot on my footwork and getting that squared away because that was a big reason I missed on a lot of my throws.

"When we went back and watched the film and stuff, I actually threw the deep ball and the short stuff pretty well, but it was those 12 to 24 (yard) routes that I had never really thrown before that I really didn't do very well.

"In high school, I never really threw those routes, so it's been a lot of throwing to our guys this winter and getting the progression down on how to throw those routes and how much velocity I needed to throw with and how I couldn't get rushed in throwing those routes.

"We throw four times a week and my receivers are always looking for me to get out there with them and throw so in that sense, this offseason has been great in getting comfortable with my receivers and them getting comfortable with me."

Finally, when asked about learning to slide, Locker, with his typical sheepish grin said that's something he's going to do more of this year.

"When I tried to run out of bounds against USC, it didn't work so well for me," Locker said with a chuckle. "Seriously though, I want to stay healthy and I want to be aggressive, but you learn as you go that you can't lower your shoulder all the time and take guys on.

"It's about picking your spots and I swear I'm going to slide more and not take as many shots. You'll just have to see me to believe it I guess."

Knowing the competitor that Locker is, most in the "interview circle" laughed and said "yeah, we'll see" and after he shook everyone's hand before they left, Locker then headed over to the food tables to get some much needed nourishment before he headed to study film and continue his maturation process to becoming the leader this team so needs him to be.


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