March 30, 2010
SEATTLE - For Jake Locker, this was his dream scenario.
After the first day of Spring Practice, the University of Washington quarterback stepped off the field feeling exponentially more confident about the offense this season and ready to get back to work at Husky Stadium.
Never mind that Locker could have been shuttling between professional teams right now and preparing for the NFL draft. He even allows himself to think about it once in a while, as a fan of the sport and the natural curiosity that comes with ex-teammates who are in draft consideration.
But Locker re-affirmed his focus is on what needs to be done on the field. This was evident since December when Locker told the program he was staying for his final season. So when he met with the media following Tuesday's practice, Locker sported a constant grin as he spoke.
"I was really excited," Locker said of the initial session. "Just the atmosphere and the intensity and the overall enjoyment out here is something you miss when you're not. It was good to get back out here with the guys, get yelled at, get coached and play a little football."
Locker added that his goals this spring are to refine his knowledge of the offense, focusing on accuracy and taking fewer sacks. Coach Steve Sarkisian continually stresses completion percentage as the cornerstone of the passing game, and Locker said his understanding of the playbook is light years ahead of where he was at this point last year. Sarkisian himself complimented the practice for its crispness afterwards.
"I felt a lot more comfortable now than a year ago," Locker said. "Everything was new to me. I was still getting really comfortable with the offense and the cadences for that matter."
Not far behind Locker during drills was freshman quarterback Nick Montana, who was taking his first snaps as a Husky. Despite a biting wind off Lake Washington, Montana threw a series of excellent passes during practice, a few of which drew the praise of his teammates and Sarkisian. What impressed the Husky coach the most was how cool Montana appeared in the huddle with an entirely new set of teammates, a trait that can be directly traced to his NFL Hall of Fame father, Joe.
The focus on the afternoon, though, was Locker and his continued development. Last year, the focus of spring camp was installing the skeletal basics of the playbook. Now Locker wants to gain complete mastery of the offensive sets. He and his receivers looked in sync during passing drills, and the camaraderie should build even further over the course of the next 14 practices.
"It was awesome to work together and fine-tune some details in the offense and not just the basics of it," Locker said. "We want to improve on some plays. When defenses are giving you a problem, we want to be able to adjust to it and turn it into a positive for us."
Like Sarkisian in his kick-off press conference on Monday, Locker wants to set the bar high when it comes to season expectations.
"It's not new to us anymore. We're all familiar with each other," Locker said. "I think we expect to win like talked about in the past. We expect to win every game we step on the field to play."