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Huskies' Locker ‘back up to speed'

Washington's quarterback, who has been hindered by a rib injury, is feeling “normal.”

  • Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who has been hindered by a rib injury, is feeling better as the Huskies prepare for a Holdiay Bowl game against Ne...

    Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press

    Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who has been hindered by a rib injury, is feeling better as the Huskies prepare for a Holdiay Bowl game against Nebraska on Dec. 30.

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By Scott M. Johnson
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who has been hindered by a rib injury, is feeling better as the Huskies prepare for a Holdiay Bowl game against Ne...

    Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press

    Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who has been hindered by a rib injury, is feeling better as the Huskies prepare for a Holdiay Bowl game against Nebraska on Dec. 30.

SEATTLE — Part of the allure of University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker is that he often rises above the norm.
And yet it was a good sign Thursday evening when Locker went through his first full practice in nearly two weeks and came away feeling, in his words, “normal.”
Normal?
“Yeah,” he said with a laugh, “like I always had (felt) before.”
That was before the rib injury. The one that slowed down Locker and the UW offense for much of November. The one that kept Locker out of the Oregon game and looked like it might cost UW any chance of bowl eligibility.
It might be a stretch to say that Locker's broken rib is 100 percent, but the time off has certainly helped the senior quarterback — and several of his teammates — heal up as the Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl approaches.
“He's back up to speed, he's throwing the ball well, and the offense looked really good today,” wide receiver Devin Aguilar said as the Huskies kicked off their first week of game preparation Thursday evening. “We look even better than before. We had a couple days off, but we still look good.”
There didn't appear to be much rust when the UW starters returned to action Thursday night. Coach Steve Sarkisian gave younger players and backups most of the work during three practice days over the weekend, and the time off helped more than a few ailing bodies.
Locker, Aguilar (hip) and left tackle Senio Kelemete (ankle) were among the offensive players who benefited most from the extra time. All three players were hobbled down the stretch as the Huskies scrapped and clawed their way into bowl contention.
“When you have the time off like this, parts of the passing game can look a little rusty,” Sarkisian said after the session. “But we looked fresh. It looked like we had fresh legs running around, and that was the most important thing.”
Aguilar was particularly impressive on Thursday after being hobbled by a hip injury midway through the season. He made the biggest catch of Thursday's practice when he snared a pass with one hand on a sideline route for a long touchdown.
“Toward the end of the year, he may have labored some,” Sarkisian said, “(Thursday) he looked really fresh — obviously on the one big play down the sidelines at the end.”
The most important body part heading into the Nebraska game may well be Locker's rib.
“He looks as quick and as explosive as I've seen him look in quite some time,” Sarkisian said. “We'll continue to assess him, but I thought all in all, his suddenness in the pocket and out of the pocket is as good as we've seen in months.”
Starting defensive end Talia Crichton, who missed the last six games of the regular season because of a knee injury, was also back in action and looks like he'll have a legitimate chance to play in the bowl game. That would allow UW to move Everette Thompson inside to defensive tackle and give the Huskies' defense a little more size up front.
Safety Sean Parker (stinger) also practiced but has yet to be cleared for the game.
Thursday's practice was a bit like dipping the proverbial toe into the waters for UW, as the Huskies will begin full game prep this afternoon.
“(Thursday) was about letting them get out, get moving, get sweating, get running,” Sarkisian said. “We introduced tidbits of the game plan. But (Friday) will be the real meat-and-potatoes of the game plan.”
Sarkisian said he won't get too tricky with UW's game plan, despite the 26 days between games and the fact that Nebraska hammered the Huskies 56-21 in a September meeting.
“I think we have a decent idea of who they are, just like they have a decent idea of who we are,” he said.
Asked whether Nebraska really knows the Huskies based on the first meeting, Sarkisian said: “I hope not. ... Ultimately, you have to try to do the things that you do well. You play to your strengths.”
With several ailing bodies returning from two weeks of rest, the Huskies might have strength in numbers for the first time in awhile.
“It's definitely good,” junior receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “We had some guys who were kind of iffy, with the injuries and stuff. Just to see them out here running, feeling good, it's just good for us. It was good for us to get that time off, get our bodies right and come out here and practice hard.”
Notes
Backup running back Johri Fogerson (hip) worked with a trainer during Thursday's practice and has started showing some of his nimbleness after missing almost the entire regular season. But Sarkisian said he does not expect Fogerson to be available for the bowl game. ... The Huskies shuffled seven different players in and out of the first-string offensive line Thursday: Kelemete, Cody Habben, Ryan Tolar, Drew Schaefer, Gregory Christine, Colin Porter and Erik Kohler. ... Part of the Holiday Bowl experience could include players visiting SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo and touring a naval ship. But Sarkisian doesn't want his players to have too much fun. “We're going to leave their passports at home, that's for sure,” he said, making an obvious reference to the short distance to Tijuana, Mexico. ... Responding to comments coming out of Nebraska about how the Cornhuskers are planning to force Locker into another poor performance, Sarkisian said: “They beat us the first time pretty good. They earned the right to say what they want.”
Story tags » Huskies Football

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