Sept. 1, 2009
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Sarkisian & Locker Monday Press Conference | Cody Habben Interview
by Michael Jeremiah
SEATTLE -- It has been 338 days since Jake Locker last played in an actual game for the Huskies. By kickoff against LSU that number will go to 343 days, almost an entire year without the Husky captain leading the offense. The anticipation of his return has been mounting throughout the offseason, for Husky fans as well as the player.
"It will be exciting," said Locker at Monday's press conference before the LSU game week preparations started. "It was hard to sit and watch last year. Getting the opportunity to play again and be on the field with the rest of the guys, it's something that I'm really looking forward to."
There's no break-in period for Locker though, as Washington opens with one of the top defenses in the nation. LSU has the size and speed to be a scary defense, according to Coach Steve Sarkisian, but Locker is not backing down from the challenge that the Tigers present.
Locker and the offense will get an added boost in familiarity from an unlikely source this week, as the schemes the scout team defense mimicking LSU are similar to those run by the Husky defense. Defensive coordinator Nick Holt's aggressive new defense and blitz packages resemble LSU's, seemingly giving the Huskies weeks of training during fall camp instead of a one-week crash course.
"I think being able to see the stuff that we saw during camp, some of the pressure looks, some of the coverage and stuff that we were getting are similar to the stuff we will see Saturday," said Locker. "I think that will obviously work to our advantage, giving us three weeks rather than one to kind of get familiar and get comfortable with the looks we are seeing."
That familiarity will be helpful for Locker and company, but it will be the unit's comforts with their own scheme that will be more important for Washington on Saturday. It will be the first time they showcase their new offense in 2009. Switching to a new offense is always tough, but early returns have shown plenty of improvement and excitement from Husky players with Locker at the forefront.
"I think it's going to be a productive offense for us," said Locker. "Hopefully it will allow for us to move the ball and put points of the board."
The new offense is more based on drop-back passing and rollouts than the previous system. According to both Locker and Sarkisian, it will not feature Locker's running ability as much as it will benefit from it as a last option. Sarkisian has advised Locker throughout the spring and fall that his talents are part of a bigger picture with the offense, and Locker is learning how to be a part of it.
"Every play that we run, [I have to] go through the progression and if it's not there then use your ability to get out of the pocket and make something happen. Not escaping before you've given the play a chance and making sure it's not the first or second option. It's something that when it presents itself, you take the opportunity to do what you can and be smart about the end of the run," said Locker.
Heralded as the recruit that will lead the program back to the top of the Pac-10, Locker has shown promise is his abbreviated career so far. With past injuries behind him and a new mentor on the sidelines, Locker is ready for a new season to start with his sights set on the LSU tigers and a resurgent season for the Huskies.