Tag:Washington Huskies
Posted on: October 3, 2009 8:01 pm

Locker more impressive than Clausen, but loses

Jimmy Clausen and Notre Dame won the game in overtime, but Washington junior Jake Locker may have boosted his stock with NFL scouts more than the Irish passer with his strong, accurate throws down the stretch.

As I mentioned in a previous post regarding this game, neither Clausen nor Locker were consistent enough in their downfield accuracy. Each hit their man, but often forced them to alter their routes when doing so. This is one of the primary differences in the accuracy required to be successful at the NFL level compared to that of the NCAA.

Clausen relied heavily on junior wideout Golden Tate (9 catches for 244 yards and a TD) throughout the game, hitting the game-breaker on a variety of drags, screens and slants. Tate, with the second most receiving yardage of any Golden Domer in school history, was the real star, utilizing his elusiveness, quick acceleration and vision to almost literally run circles around an overmatched UW secondary.

On Clausen's most important throw -- the 12 yard fade to Kyle Rudolph into the right corner of the endzone that put the Irish in the lead late in the 4th quarter, he threw the ball with good trajectory, allowing his 6-6" receiver to make a play on the ball, but with only marginal accuracy. The pass forced Rudolph to adjust his route and a more athletic and instinctive defensive back would have made a better play on the ball than the Husky corner was able to muster.

Locker, on the other hand, demonstrated better accuracy as the game went on. One of the aspects that is so intriguing about him is that he is often a more accurate passer downfield than he is on short routes. Take the final drive he engineered to put UW in position to tie and put this game into overtime. Locker soft-tossed an underneath route to TE Kavario Middleton, but then zipped a quick-hitter to WR Jermaine Slant to get the first down. His best completed pass of the quarter was his next one -- a deep comeback to James Jones that was released long before the receiver turned back to the ball. The pass hit him precisely where it should -- on his inside shoulder away from the adjusting cornerback. Johnson either could have caught the pass or had it knock the wind out of him, as the throw came on a line.

Locker two best passes of the day may have been the drops UW receivers had on 3rd and 4th down in overtime. Demonstrating his unique ability to escape the pocket, square his shoulders and throw accurately on the move, Locker fired a perfect 20 yard deep out to WR Jermaine Kearse -- who let the ball slip right through his hands. The next pass, on 4th and 19, was thrown with impressive trajectory and zip between the linebacker and safety for Notre Dame to WR D'Andre Goodwin. The pass forced Goodwin to stretch high for the pass, putting him in a precarious position between aggressive defenders. The Irish defenders closed quickly and supplied the big hits that knocked the ball out to the ground, but the throw was as accurate as any thrown by Locker or Clausen on this rainy day.

In the end, Clausen's less than breath-taking accuracy was enough to win this game and that, of course, is what is most important. In the minds of NFL scouts, however, Locker flashed the more impressive physical ability and that is what will ultimately result in the higher draft selection whenever these two talented quarterbacks elect to make themselves eligible.

Posted on: October 3, 2009 4:53 pm

Jake Locker, Jimmy Clausen good, not great so far

With unsettling performances from many of the highly ranked senior and junior quarterbacks ranked ahead of them, two passers NFL scouts have become increasingly intrigued by this year are Washington and Notre Dame juniors Jake Locker and Jimmy Clausen, respectively.

Locker's athleticism, toughness and potential as a passer have drawn comparisons to Tim Tebow. In reality, he is a further along as a passer than Tebow and has a stronger, more accurate arm with a quicker release. This fact has led some to project him as highly as a potential #1 overall candidate for the 2010 draft, should he elect to come out early.

The poise and accuracy Locker showed in the stunning upset over USC significantly increased his national attention, but scouts have been well aware of his ability for years. He remains an unfinished product, however, who too often resorts to running rather than exhausting all of his passing options.

Against Notre Dame thus far, Locker has been accurate on the short to intermediate passes, but still too often is either throwing to his first read or tucking the ball. He has the prerequisite arm strength to zip passes into tight coverage and the touch and trajectory for the deep ball. He hasn't been helped by repeated drops from UW receivers and a porous offensive line. There is no denying his first round tools. At this point, however, scouts tell me they still view him as a second round pick, as he is at least a year or more away from contributing in a pro-style offense against NFL caliber defenses.

Classen, on the other hand, is significantly further along in his development as a passer. Of course, this is to be expected after serving for three years under Charlie Weis. Classen understands the offense, making the proper adjustments at the line of scrimmage and has the accuracy to hit receivers in stride. He also spreads the ball around the field beautifully.

Like former ND star Brady Quinn, however, Classen's lack of dominant arm strength makes him a good, but not necessarily great prospect for the next level. Classen relies on his accuracy and understanding of the offense to attack, but he's attempted some dangerous passes in the first half against Washington, attempting to squeeze passes into tight holes in the secondary, such as on a 2nd quarter pass into the endzone that the Huskies should have picked off.

Their national hype may lead some to believe Locker and Classen are certain top ten prospects. In reality, while each has tools to work with -- and quite different tools at that -- both are potential gems that still require a great deal of polish...
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