The 2010 Washington Husky season essentially began today. We know now pretty much what the Huskies will have going forward (though admittedly there are a few questions still unresolved such as E.J. Savannah).
But as UW coach Steve Sarkisian said “I guess Husky nation is pretty happy right now.”
Indeed, the return of Jake Locker was the news UW fans had been waiting for — and he did it with a month to spare, helpfully relieving everyone a lot of unwanted angst.
And he did it in typical Locker fashion, eschewing a press conference to instead simply have it announced in a press release an hour or so after letting his coaches and teammates know.
“I’m extremely proud of him for the way he handled the situation,” Sarkisian said during a 15-minute teleconference with reporters.
My story has been updated to include some of what Sarkisian had to say. I also hit on some of the high points of Sarkisian’s comments in this blog post and also detailed much of how it unfolded here.
As Sarkisian said, ultimately the decision was about “what he wants out of his life.”
That’s probably the best and most concise way of explaining his decision. Sure, there are the likely benefits of staying another year and getting that much better at his craft, which probably greatly outweigh the risks in coming back — analysts say his talent is so great that any injury would have to be almost career-ending to knock him down much. There’s also the chance of just coming back and having a bad year. But that also seems much less likely than the alternative — being surrounded by a maturing team and improving on his numbers of this season.
And no doubt, Locker considered all the relevant information —- sounds as if he may have been influenced by Hugh Millen’s article in the Times last week noting the increased success rate for QBs who finish their college careers. Sarkisian alluded to that today saying that “the numbers don’t support doing it (leaving early).”
But mostly, you got the sense this was just how Locker wanted to spend the next 12 months — in college, near his family, and as his father, Scott, said in an interview on KJR-AM, with “his buddies.”
Sarkisian, in a different wording of his above comment, said that Locker “made it clear to me this decision was not about money but what he wants out of his life.”
Sarkisian said that Locker was so low-key about his decision that he didn’t even tell Sarkisian to close the doors to his office and just “matter-of-factly” made the announcement that he was staying.
“I think he has embraced the experiences he had this year and is looking forward to more like them,” he said.
From a purely football standpoint, what also seemed to help is how the season ended. Locker had two of his best games at the end of the year, particularly running the ball, rushing for a combined 171 yards against WSU and Cal.
His running had been curtailed earlier in the year due in part to a couple injuries but also in adjusting to Sarkisian’s offense, which calls for more pro-style looks.
But Sarkisian said the last two games “are an indication of where we are headed and what we can expect in 2010” in terms of Locker’s run-pass balance. He admitted there was some “give and take” needed to “make this thing work” and that the balance appeared to finally be met in the last two games, when Locker averaged 12 carries —- he averaged 8.8 to that point.
So now the real excitement over next season can begin. And hey, just 247 days until the opener at BYU.
ANY KUDOS TO WILLINGHAM? As some of you have noted, a 2010 season for Locker wouldn’t have been possible had he not redshirted in 2006, Tyrone Willingham resisting the urge to play him after the injury to Isaiah Stanback.
It would be easier to give Willingham credit for that if not for A, the way the rest of his coaching career at UW unfolded; and B, the confusing manner in which he handled the situation in the first place. If you recall, Willingham didn’t ever really publicly rule out using Locker, not even the week of the season finale Apple Cup. He also said at the time that his hope was that Locker would be so good that he might not even be around for 2010, which made a lot of fans understandably wonder why he was being redshirted.
We’ll never know if Locker could have changed anything about that season — UW was 4-3 when Stanback was ruled out for the year and finished 5-7 in a season when two Pac-10 teams (WSU and Arizona) went 6-6 and didn’t get bowl games.
It’s also worth noting that Locker might have been able to get a medical redshirt year for last season when he was lost for the year in the first half of the fourth game had he not already redshirted.
LOCKER NEWS FROM ELSEHWERE
There was lots else written about Locker’s today, as well. Here are some samples:
— GoHuskies.com has an updated story on Locker’s decision as well as a link to the audio of Sarkisian’s teleconference today. And word is that the season-ticket tally was up to about 65 by around 5 p.m.
— Nick Daschel says Locker’s return makes UW a “sure thing” bowl team next season.
— Jim Moore, in the shocker of the century, isn’t thrilled and calls it an “unwise choice.”
— Former Seattle PI Husky beat writer Molly Yanity has a nice take on Locker’s decision and says everyone needs to just let Locker enjoy himself next season.
— Ted Miller also says the Huskies should be a bowl team and notes that the Pac-10 will return to being particularly strong at the QB spot next season.
— Sporting News draft analyst Russ Lande says Locker wouldn’t have been the No. 1 overall choice in 2010 but could be in 2011.
— The Seattle Weekly tries to figure out how much money Locker might lose by staying.
— Here’s the AP writeup.
— A Bleacher Report writer notes that Locker again chose UW.
All for now.