Oct. 20, 2006
SEATTLE (AP) - Washington freshman Jake Locker is adept at role playing, portraying opposing quarterbacks John David Booty, Matt Moore, Ben Olson and Paul Thompson this season.
Should coach Tyrone Willingham come calling in the next few weeks, Locker's ready to take a new role -- starting quarterback at Washington.
"I feel like I'm ready to play. The coaches know, they've been doing this a long time, they've been around a lot of players. I think they have a pretty good idea when somebody is ready," Locker said this week. "If they feel like it's the right time, I'm confident in their decision."
Last week's season-ending foot injury to Huskies' starting quarterback Isaiah Stanback has fueled the debate of whether Locker, one of the top high school seniors in the country a year ago, will redshirt, or be given a chance as a true freshman.
That will depend on how well junior Carl Bonnell does. He's making the third start of his career on Saturday at No. 11 California. Washington's depth chart lists Johnny Durocher as Bonnell's backup with Locker somewhere in the mix.
Willingham wouldn't commit to anything about Locker earlier this week. He said Stanback's injury moves Locker "one step closer" and continually reiterated that "we will do what's best for the individual and what's best for the team."
Some of Willingham's rhetoric rubbed off on Locker.
"The coaches are going to do what's best for me and what's best for this team," Locker said. "Whatever they feel is the best choice for the team, I will support them 100 percent whatever they decide."
Locker's raw talent is without question. As a senior at Ferndale High School, about 95 miles north of the Washington campus, Locker scored a combined 51 touchdowns passing and running in leading his team to a state championship.
While Locker is not as fast as Stanback, the freshman does have many of the same skills to run and pass, making for a smooth transition of the Huskies offense. So does Bonnell.
But that's not the case with DuRocher, who is more of a traditional drop-back passer and doesn't run well. DuRocher's deficiencies have added to the question of who Willingham will turn to if Bonnell struggles. DuRocher is more than confident in his freshman friend.
"I thought Jake was ready in August to play. I still think he's ready," DuRocher said. "I think he's more prepared than August. If he gets an opportunity to play on Saturday, he'll do fine."
Learning is the theme of Locker's first season, so far. He has worked as the scout team quarterback each week, going against the Huskies' No. 1 defense. Locker has also traveled to every road game, always ready if the call came.
He was expected to get additional reps with the Huskies' No. 1 offense this week.
Opportunity is now the question. The Huskies' stated goal since August has been playing in a bowl game, and they are just two wins shy. If Bonnell falters, the debate will be using Locker and possibly playing in December, versus have a full season of eligibility for Locker down the road.
The last true freshman to start at quarterback for Washington was Marques Tuiasosopo in 1997, who lost his only start as an injury replacement for Brock Huard. Still, playing Tuiasosopo as a freshman didn't hurt the Huskies -- he led them to a Rose Bowl championship in 2000.
Locker doubts he'll hear anything from the coaches until the decision is made.
"I don't know anymore than you guys what the outcome is going to be if I get in the game," he said.