Washington coach Steve Sarkisian says he's optimistic Jake Locker will return to Huskies
Sarkisian bases hunch that Locker will decide not to enter NFL draft on the UW coach's glass-half-full attitude. "That's just the way I think," Sarkisian says.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Five offseason questionsWill Jake Locker return? Could be a little while before anyone knows. Coach Steve Sarkisian says Locker won't rush a decision and will wait to see what the NFL Advisory Committee says. But did Sarkisian drop a hint when he said Tuesday that he is "very optimistic" that Locker will be back?
Who is the QB if Locker doesn't return? Ronnie Fouch, the backup this year as a sophomore, and Keith Price, who redshirted as a freshman, would likely battle it out in the spring if Locker departs. Nick Montana, who has committed to sign with UW, will arrive in the fall but it seems unlikely he could make the leap to starter as a true freshman.
Will E.J. Savannah return? Sarkisian said there is no timetable for a decision from the NCAA whether Savannah will be granted a sixth year of eligibility. His return would bolster a UW defense that will return seven other starters. He is the only Husky seeking a sixth year.
Will UW's improvement mean better recruiting? Reality is that the Huskies were already doing well, having 26 commitments for the Class of 2010 in a group generally rated in the top 10 or 15, depending on the rating. But obviously, the fast finish to the season could lead to a fast finish in recruiting.
How is the schedule next season? Still a tough one with UW opening at BYU then coming home to play Nebraska and Syracuse before entering Pac-10 play. The conference games are flipped, so that means trips to USC, Oregon, Arizona, Cal and WSU, with just four conference home games. And if the tentative schedule is approved, UW would finish with three of its last four on the road.
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For a moment, it sounded like maybe Steve Sarkisian had some breaking news when he said Tuesday he was "very optimistic" that quarterback Jake Locker would spurn the NFL and return next season.
Asked to elaborate on that statement, however, Sarkisian said it was mostly just a hopeful feeling.
"That's just the way I think," he said. "Just the kind of guy I am. It's half-full, not half-empty."
Indeed, that tenor colored the coach's entire season-ending news conference as he said the Huskies will head into the winter feeling upbeat about a 5-7 record that included a 42-10 victory over California on Saturday. It was a five-game turnaround from the 0-12 season that resulted in Sarkisian's hiring a year ago this week.
"I think we got better," he said. "I think we play with a passion and an energy that people that watched us play, or played against us, could feel. And I think it sets a tone where we're headed as a program. I'm excited about that."
Hovering over the good feeling, however, is the pending decision from Locker to stay for a senior season or head to the NFL. He continues to be projected as a top-10 pick in the April draft if he makes himself available.
About half of Sarkisian's news conference was spent on that topic, and the coach revealed a few tidbits:
• He said he met with Locker alone on Monday to start going through the process and that there is no timetable for a decision. The deadline to declare is Jan. 15. "He's going to do his due diligence," Sarkisian said. "He's going to take his time. He's going to make a decision based on facts and proper information, not on emotion."
• He said Locker applied Monday to be evaluated by the NFL Advisory Committee, which attempts to give underclassmen an accurate view of where they might be selected. Assuming Locker waits to hear what the committee has to say, any decision on his future might not come until after the New Year. "You don't want to rush them, because you want them to do their due diligence as well, and really give back an honest response," Sarkisian said of the advisory committee. "Those things aren't science, either. They just give you an idea of what they might think, but they're not always right on point of what you might get back, and what you become. It's just part of the piece to the puzzle of all the information you get in."
• While Scott Locker, Jake's father, said in a KJR-AM interview Monday that his son declined an insurance policy this season, Sarkisian said he expected Locker would get one next year if he came back.
• Sarkisian said he met with Locker and his parents in the bye week before the Apple Cup to also begin laying out the process.
• He said he wouldn't give advice unless asked and won't try to recruit Locker to stay.
But while much of the conversation was dominated by talk of Locker — as it will be until he makes his decision — Sarkisian said he thinks the Huskies can make a bowl game next year no matter who is the quarterback.
"I think our football program is headed in the right direction," he said. "I think we were a young football team this year that matured, that got better in all three phases. To think our defense gave up 10 points in our final two games tells me a lot about where we're headed as a program, because ultimately Jake didn't make any tackles on the defensive side of the ball the last two weeks."
• The UW coaches hit the recruiting trail immediately after the season and UW has received three commitments since Sunday: OT Micah Hatchie of Waialua, Hawaii; DL Lawrence Lagafuaina of Aiea, Hawaii; and receiver Kevin Smith of Compton, Calif. That gives UW 26 known commits for its class of 2010, rated No. 8 by Scout.com. Sarkisian said Tuesday UW will sign "upwards of about 30." Teams can have 25 players initially enroll but can sign more than that number if some enroll early (meaning before this academic year is out) or late, as is expected to happen.
• Sarkisian said he expects his entire coaching staff to return.
• Sarkisian said he liked calling plays and indicated he will do it again next year. Asked if there was one he wished he had back, he said, "I wouldn't have thrown deep against Arizona State on third down." An incomplete pass gave the ball back to ASU, which scored on a 50-yard TD pass to win the game.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.orgHuskies' tentative 2010 schedule
Sept. 4/at BYU
Sept. 25/Bye week
Oct. 2/at USC
Oct. 9/Arizona State
Oct. 16/Oregon State
Oct. 23/at Arizona
Nov. 6/at Oregon
Nov. 20/Bye week
Nov. 27/at California
Dec. 4/at Washington State