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Originally published December 2, 2009 at 10:01 PM | Page modified December 3, 2009 at 10:04 PM

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Jake Locker's NFL decision: Not even dad knows

Will Huskies quarterback Jake Locker skip his last season at Washington and enter the NFL draft? "It's ... just going to come down to one kid's feelings and how he makes that call," says his father, Scott Locker. "It's just going to come down to what Jake wants to do."

Seattle Times staff reporter

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As they have for every home game the past four years, members of the Locker family — roughly 25 or so when everyone is counted — will make the trek Saturday from Ferndale to Seattle. They'll tailgate for a while in the parking lot, then find their seats in Husky Stadium for UW's 3:30 p.m. game against California.

And just like everyone else in attendance, they'll wonder if it's the last time they'll need to make such a trip to see Jake Locker play quarterback for the Huskies.

Will Locker return for his senior season at Washington, or will he enter the NFL draft?

Scott Locker, Jake's father, laughed with a reporter this week, saying he was in the dark as much as anyone else.

"I know about as much as you do for which way he's leaning," Scott Locker said. "Whenever the conversation has come up, Jake has just said, 'Let's just hang on, let me get through the year and we'll deal with talking about that then.' "

It's a decision that will color much of how UW's immediate future is viewed.

If Locker — a redshirt junior who has one year of eligibility remaining — decides to return, the Huskies will likely be regarded as a team ready to take the next step back to respectability, specifically a winning season and a bowl game.

Should he leave, however, they'll have a big question mark at the most critical position. The only other scholarship quarterbacks on the roster are redshirt sophomore Ronnie Fouch and true freshman Keith Price. Nick Montana, son of Joe Montana, a senior at Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village (Calif.), has said he will sign with UW in February.

Underclassmen must submit their names to the NFL's Collegiate Advisory Committee, designed to give the players an accurate view of what the NFL thinks of their draft status, by Dec. 18.

Scott Locker said this week his son has not decided whether to apply, but that "I would think there would be no reason not to do that."

Underclassmen then have until Jan. 15 to declare for the draft, and Jan. 18 to pull themselves out if they haven't hired an agent.

No one doubts that the Collegiate Advisory Committee is likely to tell Locker he will be a high first-round pick. Seemingly every NFL draft expert has Locker somewhere in the upper half of the first round.

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Rob Rang, a Tacoma resident and senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, says Locker "is unquestionably the most talented quarterback that's going to potentially be available for this draft. I've talked to scouts and they just say physically, he's off the charts. That's just not something you hear."

Rang has Locker third on his most recent mock draft, but says he thinks a more realistic position once the draft actually comes around is somewhere in the five-to-eight range.

Rang, though, says that if Locker comes back for his senior season he would enter next season "as my No. 1 overall pick [for the 2011 draft]."

The question for Locker, then, becomes whether he wants to head to the NFL now, likely assured of being a first-round pick but maybe not as high as he could be if he waited a year. Or, stay another year, risk injury and the unknown, but also possibly improve his standing while having one more year to create a larger legacy for himself at Washington.

Former UW quarterback Hugh Millen, now a radio analyst on KJR-AM, has several times on air detailed studies showing that quarterbacks who finish their college careers fare better in the NFL than those who enter early, and therefore make more money overall.

That could be an especially compelling argument for Locker, who has just one year playing in coach Steve Sarkisian's pro-style passing attack, compared to his high-school years and early UW years operating offenses that emphasized his running ability.

Sarkisian, who has said he has not had any substantive talks with Locker about his future, said this week he thinks "it would be huge" for Locker to come back for one more year to develop, saying UW's system and coaching style "is the best thing for him."

Rang says the view among scouts is that Locker could benefit from another year of college. He said if Locker comes out this year "someone is going to take him high just because he has so much talent. But I think anybody who has watched him throughout his Washington career can tell that he has improved but that he still has a ways to go, and that's what my concern is for him. Because I think this kid could be one of the truly elite NFL quarterbacks. But I also think he could be a bust if he came out too soon and went to a program that doesn't have a stable coaching staff."

Complicating matters is the prospect of a new NFL labor agreement following the 2010 season that could curtail contracts for rookies. Locker will have to make his decision before anyone knows exactly how the new agreement will look. Some have surmised that could be a big part of Locker's decision, but Scott Locker says it might not be.

"It's got to be something that you look into," he said. "But from all [that he's heard] I'm not so sure that that's as big of a deal as maybe some parts of the media have made it into."

Rang also theorizes that Locker would likely still stand to make more immediate money if he waited a year and improved his draft status, saying the No. 1 pick in 2011 would still likely get a bigger deal than the No. 10 pick in 2010 no matter how the new labor agreement unfolds.

Rang said the risk for Locker by staying in school is minimal, barring "a catastrophic" injury. And with nine starters back on offense, the potential is there for Locker to put up better numbers and the Huskies to win more games.

Locker would likely enter the year as one of the leading Heisman Trophy candidates.

Locker is due to graduate this spring with a degree in history. But he has consistently said he enjoys the college experience and being close to his family, a significant reason he chose to play for the Huskies.

Locker signed a baseball contract in August with the Angels, giving the team his rights for six years but with no obligation to play, that paid him a reported $300,000. Scott Locker said that money has largely been put away for the future and that contract doesn't factor into this decision.

Scott Locker said he and his wife, Anita, plan to stay out of the way, simply giving their son all the information and time he needs. Sarkisian has said the same, saying he won't pressure or advise Locker.

"All the information is great," Scott Locker said. "But the funny part is, you can be as educated as you want to be on all of this. It's still just going to come down to one kid's feelings and how he makes that call. It's just going to come down to what Jake wants to do. Whatever he decides, we will support him and I have no doubt in my mind whatever decision he makes will be a good one. We're just waiting to see."

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

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