Tag:Washington Huskies
Posted on: December 30, 2010 3:36 pm
 

Unfair to expect much from Locker tonight

Jake Locker and his Washington teammates face Nebraska tonight in the Holiday Bowl in what is clearly the most intriguing re-match of the bowl season.

Locker and the Huskies were blown out 56-21 at home by the Cornhuskers on September 18. Locker only completed 4 of 20 passes in the game for 71 yards and a touchdown. He also threw two interceptions in what was the worst performance of his career.

Locker has been better since, engineering upset victories over USC, Oregon State and Cal since and leading Washington to to three consecutive wins to assure the Huskies of their first bowl berth since 2002.

He hasn't been so good, however, to expect the type of performance against Nebraska tonight that should significantly impact his draft stock.

The reality is Washington simply lacks the bulk and talent up front to protect Locker from Nebraska's formidable defensive line, led by junior defensive tackle Jared Crick and senior defensive end Pierre Allen. Making matters even more complicated for Locker, the Huskers boast arguably the best cornerback duo in the country in Prince Amukamara, NFLDraftScout.com's top rated senior prospect at any position, and junior Alfonzo Dennard, a Second Team All-Big 12 pick, who has already announced his intentions to return to Nebraska for his senior season despite the fact that he'd best - at worst - a second round pick in the 2011 draft.

Locker is blessed with a solid receiving corps, including a legitimate NFL talent in junior Jermaine Kearse, but Nebraska has the secondary to force him to look elsewhere. Unfortunately, the Huskies are as reliant on their wide receivers as any team in the country when it comes to the downfield passing game.   Locker has only completed six passes to his tight ends all season long and saw starting tight end Chris Izbicki leave the team following the regular season. His backup, freshman Marlion Barnett, has four catches for 31 yards for his career.

If the Huskies have a chance in this game it will be due to the running of redshirt sophomore running back Chris Polk and Locker. Locker could be very decisive and accurate with the football tonight and still post ugly numbers that will undoubtedly draw criticism from media.

Having spoken to various scouts recently about Locker's stock and the expectations for him vs. Nebraska, their feeling is that Locker's stock isn't likely to go down after this game - even if he struggles just as badly against Nebraska tonight as he did in September. Of course, should Locker surprise Nebraska (and scouts) and performs very well despite the Huskies being overmatched physically at nearly every position, his stock has a chance to rise significantly.

The most likely scenario, however, has Locker and the Huskies again struggling against Nebraska. If Locker is going to re-emerge as a first round guarantee, it will almost surely happen in the next bowl -- the Senior Bowl -- approximately a month from now.

For the very best in NFL draft coverage, the place to go is NFLDraftScout.com
Posted on: December 3, 2010 12:55 pm
 

Elmore stars for Arizona in tough loss

With many sports fans tuning into LeBron's return to Cleveland or the Eagles-Texans game, an impressive showing by Arizona Wildcats' senior defensive end Ricky Elmore won't get the national attention it deserves.

While the Wildcats suffered a heart-breaking overtime loss to their state rival ASU Sun Devils, Elmore, playing in his final home, posted eight tackles (including six solos) and three sacks.

The Wildcats' duo of Elmore and fellow senior Brooks Reed put constant pressure on Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler, who was forced to vacate the pocket and demonstrated much better running skills than one might anticipate given his 6-8, 242 pound frame.

Elmore hasn't generated a great deal of national attention throughout his career despite the fact that he's led the Pac-10 in sacks each of the past two seasons. Last season, Elmore racked up 9.5 sacks. With his three sacks against the Sun Devils, Elmore now has 11 this year with a bowl game still to go.

Elmore, 6-5 and 260 pounds, reminds me in some ways of former Washington Husky defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. Like Te'o-Nesheim, Elmore has been productive throughout his career and achieves many of his sacks based on a relentless motor and good technique rather than an elite first step.

He is quick enough off the snap, however, to generate consistent pressure. If he's able to impress in post-season all-star games and/or workouts as Te'o-Nesheim did last year, Elmore could see a similar late rise up draft boards.

Te'o-Nesheim was drafted in the third round (No. 86th overall) last April by the Eagles.


Posted on: November 18, 2010 11:34 pm
 

Washington wins, but Locker again disappointing


In four seasons as the Washington Huskies starting quarterback, Jake Locker had led his team to victory on multiple occasions. Very rarely did the team win when Locker or the Husky offense, in general, didn't lead the way. Washington's defense -- the team's strength during its heyday -- had been that bad. 

On Thursday night, however, the Husky defense was the unit that played well and earned Washington the victory. The offense, particularly, Locker, struggled mightily.
With a run defense that entered the game ranked 118th out of 120 in the FBS, the Huskies did a great job of shutting down a UCLA Bruin offense that had averaged just under 195 rushing yards per game in a 24-7 victory.

For as good as the Washington defense played, Locker again demonstrated the struggles with reading defenses and hitting downfield targets that is raising concerns among NFL scouts.

On three occasions in the first half, Locker threw "blind" -- releasing passes without reading the defense. All three of the passes could have been intercepted. His interception came with Locker rolling left and firing the ball behind his target.

Locker completed only 10 of 21 passes on the night for 68 yards and the interception. He also ran four times for nine yards and a three yard touchdown.

I'm the first to point out that statistics mean little. Locker was victimized with a few drops, as has often been the case this season. Entirely too often Locker simply missed wide open targets. The concern, however, is that even among Locker's completions, very few of his passes gave his receivers an opportunity to make plays after the catch. This is in direct contrast to Stanford's Andrew Luck who, time after time, has helped his Cardinal teammates gain extra yardage because his passes "push" them away from contact and into the open field.

Locker remains a spectacular talent and one who I feel very easily could earn a first round selection despite his struggles. His upside and intangibles are as impressive any quarterback I've ever scouted.

However, I believe the single most important characteristic towards quarterback success in the NFL is accuracy. Even in Locker's best statistical game this year (against Syracuse on Sept. 11), I noted here that he wasn't as impressive as his 22 of 33 passing for 289 yards and a 4 TDs/0 INTs might first appear. 

Scouts have been waiting -- increasingly impatiently -- to see Locker prove pro caliber accuracy in any game this season.

With only two regular season games remaining in his senior season, they're still waiting to see it.

Posted on: November 18, 2010 1:44 pm
 

For Locker, it may be tonight (vs. UCLA) or never

Part of the reason why there has been so much attention heaped upon underclassmen quarterbacks Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Ryan Mallett (among others) has been the disappointing play of senior NFL passing prospects Jake Locker and Christian Ponder.

Locker's play has been particularly troubling this season due to the expectations that he make similar gains in Year Two under Steve Sarkisian as he'd made last season.

Locker has struggled with consistency in reading defenses and with his downfield accuracy.

After missing Washington's last game -- a blowout loss on the road to No. 1 Oregon -- Locker is running out of time to turn around his senior season.

Tonight, in a home showdown with former Washington head coach Rick Neuheisel and the UCLA Bruins, he'll get a significant test.

For as bad as the Bruins (4-5, 2-4 in the Pac-10) have been this season, they feature some legitimate NFL talent on the defensive side of the ball, including potential high round prospects Akeem Ayers (OLB) and Rahim Moore (FS).

Ayers' athleticism makes for a particularly interesting matchup for Locker. UCLA has enough speed on defense that Locker may not be able to simply run for first downs -- he'll have to throw for them -- giving pro scouts an opportunity to see how he'll fare in a pressure situation.

The Huskies (3-6, 2-4 in conference) need to win their final three games to assure an invitation to a bowl game. Washington has not been to a bowl game during Locker's career.

Each Friday, I highlight five prospects I'll be focusing on during Saturday's games. Locker, however, would certainly rank among those I'll be scouting closely this week.

Many football fans will elect to watch the pro game tonight (Chicago vs. Miami on NFL Network). I, and more importantly, many NFL scouts will instead be focusing on UCLA vs. Washington.

This game begins at 8:00 pm EST and will be televised on ESPN.
Posted on: October 28, 2010 10:24 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2010 11:57 pm
 

Biggest game of weekend (for draft) in Seattle

With all six of the FBS undefeated teams on the road and two games pitting Top 20 teams against each other, there is certainly plenty of intrigue in college football for the upcoming Halloween weekend.

In terms of the NFL draft, however, the place to be is Seattle, Washington where the two top quarterback prospects in the country will face off.

According to sources within the league, the expectation is that there will be "at least" 15 NFL scouts attending this game. That total would almost surely double the number of scouts that have attended any college football game in Seattle in quite some time.

Stanford redshirt sophomore Andrew Luck has emerged this season as the clear top passer in the country. Some will argue that Washington's Jake Locker has fallen out of the first round. ESPN's John Clayton has reported that he's spoken to scouts who have dropped him into the second or third round.

That might be true -- but I believe that for however low Locker has dropped early this year, he'll earn back a great deal of that lost stock if he is invited (and accepts) a Senior Bowl invitation, as expected. In that environment, Locker's rare physical tools will stand out.

This isn't a life-long Seattle area resident talking... It is from the experience of covering Senior Bowl practices since 2000.

Having scouted this long, I've learned that many NFL talent evaluators believe (as I do) that one can gauge the talents of most prospects based on film - but not necessarily quarterbacks.

Most scouts believe that to truly gauge a quarterback, one has to see them throw in person. They have to see how the ball comes out of the passer's hand; get a feel for just how much zip is on his fastball; if the quarterback recognizes when to throw with touch; how he interracts with his teammates when the cameras aren't on him.

It is why I saved my final analysis of Sam Bradford (Pro Day) , Tim Tebow (Senior Bowl) , Mark Sanchez (Pro Day) and many others over the years until after I'd seen them in person.

It is also why I won't be scouting the myriad of games I normally do this Saturday, but instead will be evaluating Stanford-UW in person this weekend.

Because to truly judge a quarterback, there is nothing like being there in person.

Posted on: September 22, 2010 6:59 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2010 7:02 pm
 

Excellent audio analysis of Locker vs. Nebraska

Jake Locker's 4 of 20 passing for 71 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown against Nebraska last Saturday continues to be the headlining topic of every interview I've done this week, including the video I did as part of CBSSports.com's NFL coverage earlier today.

As you've probably heard or read me explain before, Locker possesses a mind-boggling combination of size, athleticism and arm strength, but he has not yet been able to master the intricacies of the quarterback position. He remains very much a work in progress in terms of reading defenses and throwing a consistently accurate ball despite the fact that he's a fifth year senior. He made such gains in his first year under Steve Sarkisian that many, including myself, anticipated that he'd make similar gains in his second season in Sarkisian's pro-style offense.

That, however, hasn't (yet) happened as I noted following Locker's first game against BYU, second against Syracuse and, of course, following the historically poor performance against the Cornhuskers.

While I trust my own analysis, I do appreciate the views of others. And in this case, I think you will too.

Ian Furness, host of the afternoon show (1-3 pm PCT) show on KJR AM Seattle and his guest, former University of Washington and eight-year NFL quarterback Hugh Millen, broke down Locker's performance against Nebraska pass by pass with Millen assigning grades for every throw and decision.

Ian brings up excellent points of his own and Millen, quite frankly, is as good at scouting and articulating what he's seen with quarterbacks as any NFL general manager or scouting director I've ever spoken with. 

Millen is quick to note that Locker's performance was "poor" but he also explains that the Huskies' receivers struggled to gain any separation against Nebraska's talented secondary (which I predicted here), meaning that Washington's loss should certainly not be pinned on Locker.

Rather than take my word for it, I suggest you take a listen. I warn you, however, Furness and Millen do a great job of breaking this down. Their segment is appropriately called "Hardcore Football." Whether you listen to only a few minutes of it or the full 30 minutes, I assure you that you'll be impressed with the depth of the analysis. The final eight minutes, however, Ian and Hugh shift their analysis to Matt Hasselbeck's performance in the Seahawks' loss to the Broncos.

The first 22 minutes, however, are all Locker. Millen's real breakdown pass by pass begins at approximately the 4:20 mark.

Again, this audio isn't for light-hearted football fans.

Click here to listen.

p.s. Thanks to Ian and producer, Josh Sabrowsky, for the link.

Posted on: March 10, 2010 7:06 pm
 

Husky defenders surprise at UW Pro Day

Washington inside linebacker Donald Butler made a strong impression at the Senior Bowl, earning himself a late invitation to the Combine after being passed over initially.

Then he surprised scouts in Indianapolis with his strength; leading all linebackers with 35 repetitions of 225 pounds. A sprained ankle suffered in Mobile kept him out of the rest of the drills, however.

Healthy, Butler helped himself Wednesday in Seattle, running in the high 4.6s to low 4.7s, according to those in attendance, and leading all participants with a 35.5" vertical jump.

While Butler may have solidified his reputation as one of more unheralded inside linebackers of this class, the player who helped himself the most was clearly pass rusher Daniel Te'o-Nesheim.

Scouts (and I, as well) had often characterized Te'o-Nesheim as a try-hard, limited athlete with little to offer NFL teams in terms of upside. He leaves UW as a four-year starter and the team's career leader with 30 sacks. However, he helped his cause with a solid performance at the Combine, ranking among the best defensive linemen in the vertical jump (37), 3-cone drill (6.91) and short shuttle (4.18).

At the Washington Pro Day Wednesday, Te'o-Nesheim proved both bigger (6-3 1/2, 267 pounds) and faster (4.63) that scouts expected.

Considering his straight-line speed and the surprising agility he's shown during drills, a number of teams are beginning to look at Te'o-Nesheim as a rising prospect for the 3-4 rush linebacker position. I felt that he could be successful in this role due to his pass rush ability and instincts. There are few players in the country who play with greater and more consistent hustle and intensity that he did throughout his career.

The Combine and Pro Day drills often identify workout warriors whose film doesn't back up the athleticism they show in shorts.

For Te'o-Nesheim, who I once characterized as a likely priority free agent,  the surprising athleticism he's showing during these drills could really boost his stock -- perhaps to the middle rounds.

Seattle, San Diego, Cleveland and Indianapolis were among the teams represented at Washington's Pro Day.
Posted on: October 25, 2009 2:24 pm
 

Locker struggles in loss to Ducks

Some of my draft analyst cohorts are jumping the gun a bit, I believe, in lauding Washington junior quarterback Jake Locker as the elite passing prospect in the country.

Now, don't get me wrong. I do agree with the assessment that Locker has an unmatched set of tools. He has a strong, accurate arm, has made night-and-day improvement in his reading of defenses under the tutelage of Steve Sarkisian, and is arguably the country's most dangerous mobile quarterback -- because unlike some other highly touted running passers, Locker has learned to keep his eyes downfield when preparing to run (and has the accuracy to take advantage of his vision). I argued as much in series of posts following the Washington-Notre Dame contest two weeks ago. Jimmy Clausen's Irish won the game and his poise down the stretch was impressive, but in terms of arm strength and mobility, Locker was the more impressive talent.

However, in now his third starting season for the Huskies, Locker has yet to finish a season healthy. Much of this is because Locker is surrounded by relatively little talent, especially along the offensive line. Still, if there are questions about Sam Bradford's durability with scouts, there must be similar concerns for Locker. 

And while there is no denying his potential, Locker remains unpolished, which was evident throughout the Oregon contest Saturday afternoon.

Locker's two interceptions on this day were especially telling.

On the first, with UW down 8-3 but threatening on the Oregon 2-yard line, Locker, after play-action, rolled to his right and attempted to throw the ball to one of his two tight ends (#80 Kavario Middleton and #88 Dorson Boyce). The throw, however, was in between the two of them, making it an impossible catch for either of the Huskies, but an easy interception for Oregon DB Javes Lewis.

In the third quarter, with Oregon leading 22-6, but with UW once again challenging, Locker dropped back from the Oregon 32-yard line and threw a post-corner to Devin Aguilar (#9) that was intercepted by true freshman Cliff Harris (#3). The pass was thrown into double coverage with senior safety TJ Ward supplying coverage over the top and Harris dropping back from his primary assignment (RB Chris Polk in the flat) after reading Locker's eyes.

Locker's throw was accurate, but he failed to look off the defenders, allowing Harris to get into position to make the play.

It isn't necessarily fair to judge a quarterback's day on two throws. However, with the game still in the balance, Locker made two poor decisions -- precisely why scouts are apprehensive about his readiness for the NFL.

Being based out of the greater Seattle area, I've scouted Locker as much as any one. Hell, I "scouted" his final high school game -- the 3A state championship in which he, then a senior and his Ferndale teammates beat current Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, then a junior, and Prosser.  I know Locker's game well and have seen him make huge improvements while at UW. 

If he were to leave after this season, he'll be a high draft choice. His physical tools are just too special to ignore, especially considering the questions regarding this senior class of quarterbacks. Perhaps a top ten choice, as I projected in my first 2010 mock draft .

However, if he were to return for his senior season and in doing so tighten up his mechanics, Locker could enter the year as the unquestioned #1 overall prospect.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com