Tag:Jake Locker
Posted on: December 6, 2009 2:43 am
 

Few saw it, but Locker as good as anyone today

There were several dominant individual performances across the college football landscape Saturday -- Ndamukong Suh's 12 tackles, 7 TFL, 4.5 sacks, Mardy Gilyard's 374 all-purpose yards and 2 TDs, CJ Spiller's 233 rushing yards and 4 TDs and Mark Ingram's 113 rushing yards and 3 TDs chief among them.

With each coming on a national stage, the efforts will almost surely earn the recognition they deserve.

With no BCS bowls on the line and only regional television coverage, few had the opportunity to watch Cal-Washington. Few outside of the Berkeley and Seattle campuses likely would have turned these games on over the Big 12 or ACC Championships anyway. Hell, I'll admit it, there were moments when I, too, thought I was crazy for not tuning in to the monster games of the day rather than recording them. 

However, with the hype surrounding Locker's upcoming decision on whether to return for his senior season or leave early for the NFL increasing dramatically, I wanted to watch him in person. And so, on the biggest day of the "regular" season, I trusted the DVD players to cover the championship games and went to scout the only player I feel should warrant consideration over Suh and (potentially) Oklahoma junior DT Gerald McCoy for the NFL draft.

While I've certainly acknowledged Locker's upside in the past, I've also questioned his consistency and readiness for the NFL. One dominant performance does not prove he's either consistent or ready, his performance, however, was indeed dominant on this day...

And the NFL general managers who happened to be sitting only a few seats away from me in the Washington press box saw the same thing.

Locker is the most naturally gifted quarterback in the country. On a day when the most hyped senior quarterbacks -- Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow and Tony Pike -- threw for a collective TD to INT ratio of 4-7, Locker was spectacular. In this era of spread offenses, we've come to expect efficiency and gaudy statistics from highly touted passers. However, what made Jake Locker's 19 of 23 performance for 248 yards and 3 passing touchdowns (as well as 14 rushes for 77 yards and 2 TDs) was the variety of passes he completed. Imagine the throw and Locker made it tonight: the prototypical deep out from the opposite hash (check), the quick slant against man coverage (check), the tricky sluggo (check), hitting the tight end down the seam (check), wheel route to the outside (check), pure go-route (check).

I, and most NFL scouts I've spoken with, would like to see Locker return for his senior season. If he returns, I anticipate he'll enter next season as my highest rated prospect for the 2011 draft.

If the win over Cal was, indeed, Locker's final game for the Huskies, it was eerily similar in its efficiency and dominance as the one put forth last year by Mark Sanchez in the Rose Bowl against Penn State. That performance, of course, was key to Sanchez's dramatic rise up draft boards and ultimately to being the #5 overall choice --  similar to where I expect Locker to end up whenever he should make himself eligible for the draft.
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.

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