Fouch Shows He is Ready to Compete

Obviously the hamstring injury to quarterback Jake Locker is probably the worst possible thing that could happen to a rebuilding University of Washington football team. There is not a single player more important to the team than Jake, and to understate his injury and its overall impact on the program is stupid.

He is the franchise and his recovery is critical to the chances of the Huskies pulling an upset in their opener.

If there is a positive it has to be the opportunity for Ronnie Fouch to prove he is capable of leading the offense. He has stepped up, and after watching him for three days as the starting quarterback I think he has more than proved to his teammates and coaches that they can count on him and that he can put the ball on the money.

Fouch is ready and has been as impressive in practice in the wake of Jake's injury. He is also clearly one of its leaders. You can tell that by the way his teammates respond to him. He was elected by the team to the Bob Jarvis Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year Award as a freshman, and when he was presented the honor at the team banquet he was warmly applauded by the members of the team.

He red-shirted last season but got to travel as the third string quarterback, something that has really helped him. From the developmental standpoint he has done a major body transformation. He committed himself to the weights and put on 25 pounds of muscle since he entered the program. He runs an easy 4.6 to 4.7 40, has added sinificant numbers to his major lifts, and gets rid of the ball quickly. He is a student of the game and now is being rewarded for all his hard work with the starting quarterback position.

When Jake went down, Fouch seemed to get progressively better after each day. He has command of all the throws and appeared to me to have the necessary foot speed to get himself out of trouble. He connected with more receivers than Jake and threw with strength and accuracy. I don't know how he graded out each of those practices but I'll bet the coaches are pleased with his development. He appears in command and that is critical to a quarterback's success.

He has been nothing but a great team player since he arrived at Washington early out of high school, only to return to California for his prom and graduation after spring ball in 2007. He convinced two of his high school teammates to join him at Washington and both are excellent athletes. Marquis Persley, a corner and fellow red-shirt, will certainly help the team in time. Chris Polk might be the best player to come to Washington since Corey Dillon. Actually Chris is more like Napoleon Kaufman than Dillon, but also a little like Reggie Bush. He is easily the best skilled athlete since Reggie Williams to become a Husky and that never would have happened without Fouch.

With Locker's injury termed 'day-to-day' by UW Head Coach Tyrone Willingham, Fouch could very well be handed the baton and must prepare like he is going to start against Oregon and lead his team to victory.

Hopefully Locker will mend and Fouch will gain another year of experience as his back-up, but I'm positive now that that will include a playing role this fall. I would guess that he is now going to be factored into every game plan no matter what the playing status of Locker is. He is good enough to play at this level and his team, his coaches know it. Clearly he knows it too.

This kid is a quality quarterback who reminds me of a right-handed Mark Brunell. They both came out of California and have about the same size, speed, and ball placement, but it is the respect of their teammates that is so eerily similar.

I would guess that Locker's questionable status will be kept under wraps and that the Huskies will be preparing to play both. This also throws a wrench into what Oregon must prepare for, as they know little or nothing about Fouch. For the Huskies it turns a negative into a potential positive.

The questions about the receivers are being resolved through competition. There are no less than eight or nine kids that all bring something to the table. 'The Flea' - D'Andre Goodwin, still leads the way, but he is joined by a host of newcomers. Losing Curtis Shaw is going to be a blow to this group, because he had the ability to really run after the catch. I think that Alvin Logan is really impressive as a blocker and that alone puts him in the competition to play, especially if Chris Polk is as good as I think he is. Logan is by far the most impressive looking of the wide receivers. He is really physical and has obviously put time in the weight room.

In addition to the two returners, there are three really solid walk-ons in Charles Hawkins, Chancellor Young and Tony Chidiac. Both Hawkins and Young look mature and will be solid team players, but the youngsters will be hard to keep out of the rotation.

Realistically you only play about five to six receivers in a game. If you get ahead that number could be six to eight receivers, but basically you game plan two-deep at three positions and probably nine on the travel team. I think Washington will use a number of three-receiver sets, and using Polk in the spring there gives them an extra receiver.

Of the freshmen I really like all five. Devin Aguilar and Anthony Boyles both had the benefit of spring, as did Chris Polk; but true freshmen Cody Bruns, Jermaine Kearse, and Jordan Polk are all really solid players. Bruns might have the best hands of all the receivers. Kearse has all the tools to be a really good college receiver and also has great hands. Jordan Polk is easily one of the quickest Huskies since Joe Jarzynka. Polk and freshman running back David Freeman have both brought the Beno Bryant-type quickness back to Husky football. These two are lightning in a bottle. They will make you miss, but all of the receivers have excellent speed.

Fouch is comfortable throwing to all of them, and there is also little doubt that tight end Michael Gottlieb will become a major factor at his position. He is clearly improved and is now a really physical blocker. I think he is ready to be a big contributor to this team.

I have to admit I was as shocked as anyone when Jake went down but I immediately processed it as a great opportunity for Ronnie Fouch. Face it - the development of the backup quarterback position is always critical to the overall success of any team.

I think that it is now obvious that Fouch will be ready when the time comes. It is very rare that a quarterback takes all the snaps for a team in a year anyway so getting this quality work with the first team is only going to make him better when his time does come.


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