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Originally published Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Huskies new starter Ronnie Fouch has been a quarterback all his life

University of Washington quarterback Ronnie Fouch, who is starting against Arizona on Saturday, says he can't really remember a day when he wasn't preparing to be a quarterback for somebody.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

Washington @ Arizona, 4:30 p.m., Versus

Ronnie Fouch had been told before Saturday's game against Stanford that he was going to see some action, regardless. ¶ So when his father, John, heard while driving through the Southern California night that his son was in the game, he didn't think much of it.

"He'd told me he was going to play some anyway, so I thought he was just in for that," said John Fouch, who was on the road returning from his daughter's volleyball tournament.

When he heard the reason his son was in the game — the broken thumb that will sideline Jake Locker six to eight weeks — his reaction didn't really change. Ronnie Fouch, his father said, is as ready for his sudden new responsibility as can be.

"This is what he's worked for his whole life," John Fouch said of his son, who will get his first start for the Huskies on Saturday at Arizona.

Ronnie Fouch says he can't really remember a day when he wasn't preparing to be a quarterback for somebody.

"Ever since I was 8 years old I played quarterback," he said. "I've never played another position."

He comes from a self-described football family.

John Fouch was a quarterback for a few years at Arizona State, serving as a backup to Mark Malone, and then entered a long career in coaching, including a stint as the head coach at the University of Redlands, where Ronnie served for a time as a ball boy.

A grandfather and uncle played at USC. Another grandfather played at Wisconsin. He has athletic genes on his mother's side, too. Rhonda Fouch was a standout volleyball and basketball player at the University of Redlands.

"I just grew up watching football," Ronnie Fouch said.

An injury forced him into a starting role at quarterback as a freshman at Redlands (Calif.) East Valley High, and he never gave up the job, throwing for 34 touchdowns and just four interceptions as a junior. But a separated shoulder on his throwing arm suffered late that season worried some recruiters.

When UW came calling in the summer before his senior year, it was his only Pac-10 offer. He committed in early July, becoming one of the first members of the Class of 2007, saying he was drawn largely by the presence of coach Tyrone Willingham, whose emphasis on academics impressed his mother and father, who each have backgrounds in education.

When he showed the shoulder wasn't an issue and again put up big numbers that fall, a few more schools inquired, notably California. But Fouch stayed committed, and the bond between player and school grew when the Huskies suffered some QB injuries late in the 2006 season, most notably losing Johnny DuRocher to a career-ending brain tumor.

With depth suddenly an issue, Willingham asked Fouch if he'd be willing to enroll in time for spring ball. Fouch eagerly agreed, becoming, at the time, the first Husky in about a decade to graduate early from high school to take part in spring ball.

The 6-foot-1 Fouch weighed just 178 pounds when he enrolled. He's up to about 210 — a bigger, sturdier presence in the pocket.

He thinks, however, the extra weight might have caused him some problems last spring when he had a few ragged scrimmages early, struggling with his accuracy.

"My body was changing and I was going through some changes in my form," he said. "But I feel much more comfortable and confident in my form now."

In fact, he played so well as the starter when Locker was sidelined for a few weeks in fall camp with a hamstring injury that coaches said they might work to get him a regular role in games.

As more of a traditional dropback passer than Locker, he offers a different look. Fouch threw 27 times in 2 ½ quarters Saturday, compared with nine pass attempts by Locker in about 1 ½ quarters.

"We passed the ball a lot more when I got in and kind of moved away from our quarterback-run game," he said. "I'm anticipating the same thing [against Arizona]."

Teammates describe Fouch as a leader on the field, laid-back off it. He bonded with Locker initially when the two attended religious services together after Fouch arrived on campus.

But football, he says, is at the center of most of what he does. He lives with redshirt freshman tight end Chris Izbicki and next door to teammates Nick Wood, Kalani Aldrich and Skyler Fancher. The group spends a lot of nights hanging out.

"We play the NCAA football [video] games and get pizza," he said. "That's pretty much all we do."

He plans to major in sociology, with his post-playing goal already set.

"Probably coach," he said.

"He's kind of been a gym rat his whole life," said offensive coordinator Tim Lappano.

Preparation that has led him, finally, to Saturday in Tucson.

"I don't think I'll be nervous," Fouch said. "I'll just be anticipating getting out on the field and throwing that first pass. Once I throw the first pass, I feel like I'll calm down."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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