Tuesday Press Conference Notes

Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian addressed the media Tuesday on a range of topics, including the future of Jake Locker, the progress the program has made in regards to recruiting and whether or not he expects his staff to remain intact for the 2010 season.

Sark said the season, in his opinion, really resembled the last drive they had against LSU, where they scored on the last play of the game. It epitomized the idea that they were going to play as hard as they could for 60 minutes. He said he was very appreciative of the team for continuing to play as hard as they could throughout the whole season. They played with passion and energy.

They could have easily packed it in with that last drive against LSU, and they could have done the same with the season when it was clear they weren't going bowling, but they didn't and are now reaping the rewards of the last two wins and what that does for them as they head into the off-season on a high note.

A lot of Tuesday's questions surrounded the future of Jake Locker, and Sarkisian's part in Locker's decision-making process of whether to turn pro or not. Sarkisian reiterated that he and Locker had a meeting Monday ('nice conversation') and that Jake is doing things the right way when it comes to getting to the decision that's best for him and his future. "He's going to do his due diligence. He's going to take his time. He's going to make a decision based on facts and proper information, not on emotion."

He added that Monday they sent in the paperwork required to make sure Locker would receive an evaluation by the NFL to help judge his stock and draft status.

Asked if he was optimistic Locker would return to Washington, Sarkisian said simply - "Very optimistic". "That's just the way I think," he would go on to say, adding that he's not basing his opinion on anything Locker has said or intimated to him.

But based on his own past history of helping USC's quarterbacks wrestle with their own professional decisions, Sarkisian definitely feels he's well-equipped to show Locker what to look for when deciding his own future.

"I've had some pretty good experience with this that have gone both ways," he said. "I've seen Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart stay in school, I've seen Mark Sanchez decide to turn pro. Not that any decision is wrong or right, it's what is best for those individuals. We're just trying to supply him with the information that's there."

So what will Locker base his decision on? "I think it's based on, one, the history of quarterbacks that leave early and what they've accomplished," Sarkisian said. "I think it's based on draftable teams – what teams potentially there that are drafting in the top-five picks. I think it's based on the evaluation he gets backs from the National Football League. I think it's based on the other quarterbacks that are entering the Draft, and what they're strengths and what they're weaknesses are. I think it's based on our football team and where we're headed and where we are – the things we're trying to get accomplished and where we are in the system. And I think it's based on his strengths and his weaknesses and what another year would mean to him here as compared to what another year would mean to him in the National Football League in continuing that process of becoming a premier quarterback."

While he said he wouldn't interject his own opinion to Locker unless asked, Sarkisian definitely wants Jake back manning the Huskies next fall. "We would love to have Jake Locker back," he said. "I think his future is extremely bright. I think he's only going to get better and I only think we'll get better with him.

"But I want him to make this decision based on what he feels is right, not us trying to persuade him one way or another. And in time, I'll give him my honest and humble opinion. But that's not telling him what to do."

Sarkisian was asked what that opinion might be, but he said that it would be something he would only share with Jake.

One thing he did say was that he echoed the thoughts of Locker's father Scott, who told Dave 'Softy' Mahler that money would not be the driving force behind Jake's ultimate decision. "It's not about money with this guy," Sarkisian said. "It's about what he loves to do. It's just a matter of where he wants to play football."

Sarkisian was asked about any potential drawbacks that might occur from Locker coming back, and he said the natural one is the fear of injury, but with insurance policies the way they are, every top prospect takes a policy out on themselves - although Locker hasn't yet. He also mentioned Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford, and his injury this fall. "But he'll still be a top-10 draft pick," Sarkisian added.

He was asked about recruiting, and Sarkisian said the staff expects to take upwards of 30 players for the 2010 class, including prospects that might sign mid-year and those that would delay enrollment until roughly this time next year.

"There's been a little proof to what we said we were going to do," he said. "It's one thing to say you were going to do something. But when you are actually able to go out and accomplish some of these things you said you were going to do there's some validity there. I thought from the moment we first went out, from the first moment I put purple and gold on that people have received us extremely well."

Sarkisian was asked about an appraisal of his first year as head coach. "I thought for myself I thought we performed pretty well," he said. "One of my biggest goals coming in was I wanted to make sure we played hard. You are never going to be perfect your first year. You are going to have those growing pains, have those times when you don't perform exactly the way you want, or don't execute exactly the way you want.

"But the bottom line I wanted was that we played hard, and I thought that was the biggest thing we had to change from what it looked like the last few years to what I wanted it to look like this year that we played hard and we gained the respect of our opponents and our fans from the effort that we played with and I think we did that. For the most part we did that. There are some moments when we didn't and I think we addressed it and to our kids' credit they responded.

"I would feel a lot better about my first year as a coach if we would have won some more games. That's natural. That's just the competitor inside you. But I think we have come a long way and think we are on the right track of where we are headed as a football program currently and what we are doing recruiting wise and I think our fans have a good understanding of the type of coaches we are and the type of program we are trying to become and that makes me feel confident and feel good about what we are able to do. There are obviously specific things that we learned from throughout the year where I know we can be better and that's what we are addressing."

Those 'specific things' include offensive red zone efficiency and third-down defensive efficiency. "I thought we addressed pressuring the quarterback in the bye weeks, it obviously got a lot better in the last couple of weeks with our ability to pressure the quarterback," he said. "So we're growing, we're getting better. The season didn't get stale and this is who we are after week five and that's all that happened the rest of the year. We continued to improve in some key areas. We got more physical up front. We ran the ball better. We're continuing to grow. We'll just continue to address those areas, and hopefully that turns us into an even better program next fall."

So what letter grade would he give himself? Come to find out he grades on a curve. "I just know we finished seventh in the conference, so whatever grade that is - it is what it is," Sarkisian said. "We were seventh in this conference. We beat some pretty dang good teams and we lost to some teams that I feel like games we should have won. At the end of the day, to quote someone else, you are who you are. We are 5-7 and we're seventh in our conference, but I think we're getting better."

And if he could get a mulligan for anything that happened during the season, he would take back the third-down pass against Arizona State. That play forced a punt that enabled the Sun Devils one last chance to score, and they did - eventually winning 24-17.

He added Tuesday that once the recruiting workload lessens a bit they'll go back and self-scout and analyze everything that happened during the season to try and improve the product on the field. "They'll be some things we'll look at - we're going to possibly look at practicing in the morning instead of the afternoon because of our class schedules and timing for our kids," he said. "We're always looking to get better. You're either trying to get better or you're getting worse. Nothing ever stays the same, in my opinion."

Sarkisian said he expects his staff to come back fully intact. "I love this staff," he said. "I think we have a nice mix, from older to younger. I think we bring a lot of energy. I think we bring a wealth of knowledge in this game. What I love about this staff, I feel like we're real people. No on on this staff is somebody that's out of touch, or the players can't talk to or can't relate to. I feel like our kids really relate well to us. We're very honest and upfront with them and we're honest and upfront with each other."

He didn't have any injury or personnel updates to share, but he did say he is anxious to get guys like Brandon Yakaboski, Chris Robinson and Will Shamburger up and running.

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