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Originally published Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Washington coaches rave about Locker's improvement

Washington football coaches say quarterback Jake Locker's passing and decision-making show vast improvement the past week.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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In the world of Washington football, there's plenty to worry about — whether the Apple Cup is moving to Qwest Field and whether they'll ever renovate Husky Stadium.

But one of the bigger causes for concern the last few years — whether Jake Locker would ever become an accurate enough passer to fulfill his vast potential — is less reason for worry with each passing day, in the eyes of the Huskies' new coaches.

"I'm extremely, extremely excited about it," UW coach Steve Sarkisian said Wednesday, of how far Locker has come in the past week.

Sarkisian began the spring saying his goal for Locker in 2009 was to complete 60 percent of his passes.

And during the past five practices, Sarkisian said, Locker has done just that, making better decisions of when to run and where and when to throw. Locker was 10-for-16 passing in a full scrimmage Saturday and also had one dropped. That's a 62.5 completion percentage.

"He's really completing the football well," Sarkisian said. "He's starting to find that fine line in there of when to pull the ball down and run and make plays with his legs, and he's understanding where his checkdowns are. The best way to get your completion percentage up is when things aren't open down the field, check the ball underneath and let the backs make plays."

Locker, though, says he's also simply throwing more accurately. He completed 47.3 percent of his passes as a freshman, and 53.8 last season before suffering a broken thumb and missing the last eight games.

"I feel like I'm throwing it a lot better," Locker said. "I'm not missing high all the time, and when I'm completing passes, I'm completing it where I'm supposed to more of the time."

Doug Nussmeier, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, reviewed game tapes and thought Locker's issues came when he was forced to look away from his primary receiver.

"When he had to go to his secondary and third receivers, his throwing base was getting real, real wide," Nussmeier said. "So we worked to try to keep that narrow, keep his feet together when he's moving in the pocket."

Nussmeier thinks Locker's broken thumb was still an issue when spring practices began, resulting in a few uneven days.

"The biggest thing coming off the hand injury is making sure he is following through on every throw," Nussmeier said.

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

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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