Sarkisian Hopes Locker's Big Picture Includes Husky Success
"I think that's what's great about him and what makes him a special player on the field," said Washington coach Steve Sarkisian. "He looks beyond what's right in front of him."
Sarkisian might be one of the happiest college football coaches in America. One of the most highly regarded quarterbacks in the nation chose to come back for a fifth season and might turn Sarkisian into a hero in his second season in Seattle.
The program that hasn't experienced a winning season since 2002 suddenly is dealing with expectations and hype and almost all of it has to do with Locker, the strapping 6-foot-3 passer with fleet feet and huge upside. He could end up as the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. But first, Sarkisian would like to see Locker finish his college career with a flourish.
"People who don't know Jake Locker will want to talk about how physically gifted he is, how tall, how big, how fast, how strong, how good of an arm he has," Sarkisian said. "But I think, as good he is as an athlete, he is a better person. He's extremely humble, he's got a tremendous work ethic, he has the leadership qualities to be special and I think he's willing."
Locker is 9-19 as a starting quarterback in his career at Washington. The Huskies finished without a win in 2008 and ended up 5-7 in Sarkisian's debut season last year, upsetting USC, nearly defeating Notre Dame in South Bend and closing with blowout wins over Washington State and Cal.
That success was the sling-shot that brought Locker back into the fold.
Sarkisian said he wasn't surprised by Locker's decision to return to Washington for a fifth season.
"I think, in his mind, all along he wanted to come back," Sarkisian said. "At the end of the day, the experience of playing college football your senior year, and how far we've come as a program in a short amount of time, he wants to be a part of this thing."
Sarkisian said Locker has room to improve. The coach wants to see him raise his completion percentage eight to 10 points. He wants to see the touchdown-to-interception ratio go from 2-to-1 to 3-to-1.
He wants Locker to improve his understanding of the system and his rapport with the receivers.
And he doesn't want Locker to try too hard. Which is going to be a tough sell for a kid who is taking his last shot at taking a once-proud and currently win-starved program to its first bowl game since Locker was a freshman in high school.
"He needs to allow the system to work, allow the other guys around him to make their plays and that is only going to make it easier for Jake," Sarkisian said.
Read Michelle Smith's question-and-answer session with Washington quarterback Jake Locker.