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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

December 8, 2009 at 1:08 PM

Sark’s season-ending news conference

You wanted it all, you’ve got it all.
UW football Steve Sarkisian conducted his final press conference of the season today, and I’ll present all of it here uncut, uncensored (not that it needed any), and hopefully un-typoed.
Opening statement: “Well, you know for me, looking at this season, I go back to one drive in particular that I think was indicative of the way we played this year, and that was obviously our last drive versus LSU in the opener. This football team said a lot in that drive about the way we were planning on playing this year, the effort we were going to play with and that we were going to play for 60 minutes of football. We obviously went down and scored on the last play of the game, and I thought our fans appreciated that drive, appreciated the way we played and the effort that we played with and that we were going to play hard for 60 minutes.
To think, with two games remaining in the season, our kids knew they weren’t bowl-eligible, for them to come out and really perform at a high level in the final two weeks somewhat is parallel to that final drive (against LSU) – that it didn’t matter what the score was, it didn’t matter what colored uniforms the opponents were wearing, our kids were going to play hard. I’m very appreciative of that for them, and proud of them because I think we got better as a football program. 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. These kids could have easily packed it in on the last drive versus LSU, and they could have easily packed it in the final two weeks of the season. But they didn’t. They continued to compete. They continued to prepare. And ultimately they reaped the benefits of a couple great wins, and a couple lifelong memories.”
Where do things currently stand with Jake Locker?: “Well, we’re just going through the process. I had a nice meeting with him yesterday, and we’re starting to compile all the right information. He’s having some nice conversations with people. I think it’s one he’s doing the right way. Jake is a very heady young man. He’s a patient young man. He’s not someone that’s just going to jump to a decision, or make a decision based on emotion. He’s proven that from high school when he had an opportunity to go play major league baseball, to last year when he got drafted by the Angels and the process of signing that contract, to making this decision now. He’s going to do his due diligence. He’s going to take his time. He’s going to make a decision based on facts and proper information, not on emotion.”

Are you optimistic about Locker’s return? “Very optimistic.”
Can UW get to a bowl game next year without Locker? “Sure. I think our football program is headed in the right direction. 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.”
Have you talked to Ronnie Fouch about what his role could be next year?: “We haven’t gotten that far yet. The game is over, we had a final team meeting and hit the road recruiting. Our entire football team knows the expectation. They need to come back to work Jan. 4 in the weightroom. They need to do a nice job of their offseason conditioning program, and getting even more comfortable with the systems in all three phases.
Why ‘very optimistic about Locker’s return?: “That’s just the way I think. Just the kind of guy I am. It’s half-full, not half-empty.”
What’s Locker’s timeline?: “I’m not going to rush him. I don’t think it’s going to happen today, if you want to know that, but I don’t think it’s going to come down to the midnight hour here where he’s going to have to make the decision the night before. I think it’s one where he gets his information, he’s going to feel good about it in his heart and his soul, and he’s going to make a great decision.”
What will Locker’s base decision be based on?: “I think it’s based on, one, the history of quarterbacks that leave early and what they’ve accomplished. I think it’s based on draftable teams – what teams potentially there that are drafting in the top-five picks. I think it’s based on the evaluation he gets backs from the National Football League. I think it’s based on the other quarterbacks that are entering the Draft, and what they’re strengths and what they’re weaknesses are. I think it’s based on our football team and where we’re headed and where we are – the things we’re trying to get accomplished and where we are in the system. And I think it’s based on his strengths and his weaknesses and what another year would mean to him here as compared to what another year would mean to him in the National Football League in continuing that process of becoming a premier quarterback.”
Is Locker applying for evaluation by the NFL Advisory Committee?:“Oh sure. That’s natural. That was easy. We did that yesterday.”
What’s the timeline of the return of evaluation by the NFL?: “They vary. You kind of get into the stack of papers. 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. 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.”
Scott Locker, Jake’s dad, talked on the radio about a meeting of minds of the minds a few weeks ago. Can you talk about that?: “I don’t want to elaborate about the specifics of the meeting. That is for Jake and his family and us through this process. But it’s just part of us trying to supply him with the right information – the information that really matters that he’s going to base his decision on, and not get caught up in the fluff, or things going on in the perimeter that don’t really matter. We just try and supply with him the information that really matters so he can make a clear and conscious decision, and that is what that meeting what was about then, and that’s what the meeting was about yesterday.”
When was that meeting?: “It was in the bye week. Second bye week.”
What are things you’ve learned from USC situations that would be beneficial for Locker now?: “Well there’s a lot of those things. Ultimately for Jake, although he’s had to deal with it with major league baseball, this is the first time he’s had to deal with, and the only time he’ll have to deal with it with this situation. We’re fortunate that, I’ve had some pretty good experience with this that have gone both ways. I’ve seen Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart stay in school, I’ve seen Mark Sanchez decide to turn pro. Not that any decision is wrong or right, it’s what is best for those individuals. We’re just trying to supply him with the information that’s there. We’ll try and get him somewhat in contact with the people that have had those experiences so that they can give their feeling of why they made the decision so (Locker) can understand what the thought process for them was, so that he can come up to the conclusion that he feels good about with two feet on the ground, he’s making a strong decision about.”
How involved were you in Sanchez’s decision?: “I was pretty detailed. It was obviously a time where there was a lot going on in both of our lives. But Mark and I had a great relationship. We spent four tremendous years together. I have the utmost respect for he and his family, and the preparation Mark put into the position. He’s a great young man. So I think there was pretty good amount of dialogue. But again with Mark, just as with Jake, I’m not one to tell these guys what to do. I just want to supply them with the information. I want to be able to answer questions that they might have. Ultimately is all of these types of decision, whether it’s this one, or what college to go to, or when a guy becomes a free agent in the NFL, or if a guy decides to propose to his wife, or if a guy decides to buy a new car, or a new house – those decisions have to come from your heart and your soul. Because inevitably, they’re never perfect. And adversity is going to come in a lot of different shapes, forms and sizes. And when it does, it’s a lot easier to look to yourself, to fight through the adversity and have the mental toughness as compared to saying to yourself, ‘Well so-and-so told me to do it, or I did it because I thought so-and-so wanted me to do it.’ I think that’s why for the guys before that I dealt with – Carson, Matt, and Mark – they did their decisions based on what they felt was right, and they never looked back on it. That’s what I’m hoping Jake can get accomplished through this as well.”
Surprised that Sanchez left?: “No I wasn’t surprised at all.”
Will you try to recruit Jake to stay?: “No, I want him to feel good about what he’s doing and not feel like we tried to recruit him back here. Don’t get me wrong — we would love to have Jake Locker back next year. We would love to have him as our quarterback, as our leader. He’s a fantastic individual, a great player. I think his future is extremely bright. I think he’s only going to get better. I think we will only get better with him. Don’t miss the message here. This isn’t about that we don’t want him. I want him to make this decision based on what he feels is right, not us trying to persuade him into one way or the other.”
Has he asked for your opinion?: “I don’t know if he has asked it in so many words. We’ve had some really good dialogue about it. And in time that might come about. And I’ll give him my honest and humble opinion. But that’s not telling him what to do.”
What will you tell him? “That’s for he and I.”
What are the minuses to him staying?: “I don’t know yet because I don’t know how this draft is going to shake out. The potential is well could you miss the possibility of getting on a specific team. I haven’t had a chance to really analyze what next year’s draft might look like from a specific position. Is it loaded, is it not loaded. But on that end of it, I’m not sure. The natural thing to this is the minus is what if he gets injured. The insurance policies in place now, that’s not as big of a factor. And then look at a guy like Sam Bradford and had basically a season-ending injury and he’s still going to be a top 10 draft pick. So I don’t know that injury is a minus to say that a guy puts his work out there. I think the biggest thing is the plus is he can continue to show that he is improving and getting better and showing the consistency. So I don’t know that there is such a big minus that way.”
Does Jake have a policy?: “Not yet, no. But that’s standard. They all do it.”
Any chance the potential changes to the NFL salary cap in 2011 will impact anything?: “Uh, we are looking at that and talking to the right people about it. And we don’t know because they don’t know, That’s the hard part. They’ve been talking about that thing for five or six years now. That was one of the ploys to get Leinart to come out early that some of the agents were using. So that was however many years ago and they are still talking about it, so I don’t know.”
On whether Jake is driven by money and if he gets a sense that he’s not: “I get that completely. It’s not about money with this guy. He could d have signed out of high school and made millions of dollars playing baseball. This is about what he loves to do. I think he loves playing football. It’s a matter of where he’s going to play football.”
On whether Locker is getting inundated with agents: “No Because the bottom line is when you are in a position like this and you are a quarterback you are only signing with a couple different agents. It’s pretty simple that way. It’s a little different than the running back position or wide receivers or defensive linemen. Look at the top quarterbacks in the NFL and there are not too many different agencies that represent them.”
What is the target number of recruits you are shooting for in this class?: “Oh we’ll sign updwards of about 30 guys.”
On the expectations for this recruiting class: “The expectations are one, we want balance. We want to be able to fulfill needs across the board on our football team and not just try to focus on one area or another area. It’s about having depth and balance in the class and specific position groups having some really good opportunities to come in and contribute right away. And some other position groups of development. But that will remain to be seen until we actually get to sign these guys and really talk specifically about them individually.”
Are you looked at differently on the recruiting trail now?: “I don’t know. I look kind of the same, what do you think? (Laughing) I think we’ve obviously put a little, there’s been a little proof to what we said we were going to do. It’s one thing to say you were going to do something. But when you are actually able to go out and accomplish some of thee things you said you were going to do there’s some validity there. So in a sense yes, because people said ‘okay, yes, they doing what they said they were going to do.’ But I thought from the moment we first went out, from the first moment I put purple and gold on that people have received us extremely well.”
Is there a timeline for E.J. Savannah’s sixth year to come through?: “Not yet, no.”
Is the paper work in?: “Yeah.”
On the day you were hired, what was your biggest apprehension at that time about this job?: “My biggest concerns were to make sure that the support was here to get this thing turned around. I knew the history of the university and of the program, the great coaches, the great players, the accomplishments. But I didn’t know Scott Woodward. I didn’t know President (Mark) Emmert. And I wasn’t sure what their goals were for this program, what they wanted to get accomplished. As I got to spend time with them to find out how serious they were about this program and what it meant to the university, I knew right then that this was the right job. There was no more apprehension. I wanted the job.”
What are your overall thoughts on your first year as a head coach?: “I thought for myself I thought we performed pretty well. One nof my biggest goals coming in was I wanted to make sure we played hard. You are never going to be perfect your first year. You are going to have those growing pains, have those times when you don’t perform exactly the way you want, or don’t execute exactly the way you want. But the bottom line I wanted was that we played hard, and I thought that was the biggest thing we had to change from what it looked like the last few years to what I wanted it to look like this year that we played hard and we gained the respect of our opponents and our fans from the effort that we played with and I think we did that. For the most part we did that. There are some moments when we didn’t and I think we addressed it and to our kids’ credit they responded. I would feel a lot better about my first year as a coach if we would have won some more games/ That’s natural. That’s just the competitor inside you. But I think we have come a long way andn think we are on the right track of where we are headed as a football program currently and what we are doing recruiting wise and I think our fans have a good understanding of the type of coaches we are and the type of program we are trying to become and that makes me feel confident and feel good about what we are able to do. There are obviously specific things that we learned from throughout the year where I know we can be better and that’s what we are addressing.”
On things they will address in the off-season: “You guys always ask me. We keep talking about the red zone. There’s specific instances of area where I know we can be better. We can be better in the red zone offensively. We can be better on third-down defense. And I know that because we’ve got great coaches and we’ve got to coach it better. We’ve got to get specific points across about the way we perform in those areas. Goal-line offense has to be better. I thought we addressed pressuring the quarterback in the bye weeks, it obviously got a lot better in the last couple of weeks with our ability to pressure the quarterback. So we’re growing, we’re getting better. The season didn’t get stale and this is who we are after week five and that’s all that happened the rest of the year. We continued to improve in some key areas. We got more physical up front. We ran the ball better. We’re continuing to grow. We’ll just continue to address those areas, and hopefully that turns us into an even better program next fall.”
On giving himself a letter grade for the season: “I grade on the curve. I don’t have letter grades. (laughs) I just know we finished seventh in the conference, so whatever grade that is — it is what it is. We were seventh in this conference. We beat some pretty dang good teams and we lost to some teams that I feel like games we should have won. At the end of the day, to quote someone else, you are who you are. We are 5-7 and we’re seventh in our conference, but I think we’re getting better.”
On whether his staff will return next season: “I expect us all to be back, fully intact. I love this staff. I think we have a nice mix, from older to younger. I think we bring a lot of energy. I think we bring a wealth of knowledge in this game. What I love about this staff, I feel like we’re real people. No on on this staff is somebody that’s out of touch, or the players can’t talk to or can’t relate to. I feel like our kids really relate well to us. We’re very honest and upfront with them and we’re honest and upfront with each other. Sometimes when you go through a year you can have riffs amongst staff or tension amongst staff. We never had that. That stuff might not occur when you win every game, but we had some tough losses, some agonizing losses. There’s never been any finger-pointing. Guys were supportive of one another. I love these guys. They did a great job and I’m anxious to watch them go back to work when we get back from the holidays.”
On if there are any plays he’d like to take a mulligan on this season: “I wouldn’t have thrown deep against Arizona State on third down.”
On whether there will any changes to his workload and responsibilities, or that of any coaches: “We’ll analyze that a little later. This game ended and we started recruiting on Sunday. So we really haven’t had a chance to really sit down and analyze it from A to Z and look at everything we’re doing. They’ll be some things we’ll look at – we’re going to possibly look at practicing in the morning instead of the afternoon because of our class schedules and timing for our kids. We’re always looking to get better. You’re either trying to get better or you’re getting worse. Nothing ever stays the same, in my opinion. We’ll continue to look to find ways to get better. But we haven’t had a chance to really analyze it the way we want to because we jumped right into recruiting.”
On if he’s happy with the open practice policy: ” I think it’s good. I think it’s good for you guys that cover us to get a chance to really see our team. It’s good for our alumni and fans and our supporters to watch our kids and watch them develop. I know it’s a lot easier in spring ball to get out to practices, or in training camp. But hopefully it gives people a chance to appreciate how hard our kids practice, how hard they work and how hard our coaches work.”
On if he still enjoys play calling: “I do. I love that aspect of it.”
On if there are injury updates on the guys who had season-ending injuries and if there are any guys he knows may be back for spring: “I don’t know that right now off the top of my head, but I do know that all our guys are rehabbing extremely well. There hasn’t been any real setbacks with anybody. There are guys I’m anxious to see practice and work. Brandon Yakaboski hasn’t been out with us. I’m anxious to hopefully get him back going at some point. Justin Glenn was playing nice football for us – to get him back. I’m anxious to see Chris Robinson, to get him going. Will Shamburger. So there’s some guys I’m anxious to see. But all the rehab seems to be going well at this point. ”
On the impact the JC players made this year and looking at JC recruiting: “I’ve said from day one that I don’t want to make a living recruiting JC players. A program gets built from the ground up from year one through year five and bringing in high school players and developing them. As I’ve always said, when you bring in a JC kid, it’s for a need. There may be a possibility of bringing in one, maybe two JC kids. But we’re not going to be making a living doing that.”
On if the 2010 class is a class where he can start redshirting players and building depth: “I don’t know if that’s a real philosophy for us. I think our philosophy is we want to play the players that give us the best opportunity to win. Whether they are seniors or freshmen to us is a little bit irrelevant. If they can go out and perform the best, we’re going to play ’em. This year that happened to be where we played some true freshman because we felt they gave us the best chance. And in a lot of instances that held true, and in a couple of others it didn’t.”
On off-season weight conditioning goals for players: “We’ll touch on that after the new year.”
On if there have been any roster changes since the Cal game: “No.”
On who was at his meeting with Locker on Monday: “Just Jake and I.”



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