SEATTLE — You can relax, Husky fans. Your quarterback is fine.
On Monday, coach Tyrone Willingham said Jake Locker’s sore shoulder was nothing to be concerned about, and on Tuesday, the Washington quarterback confirmed that he is, in fact, doing fine after taking a helmet to the shoulder on a touchdown run in the final minute of the Huskies’ win over Stanford.
Locker came out of the locker room Saturday night icing his right shoulder, as well as his left elbow, putting a scare into Husky fans everywhere.
“I had the ice packs and that was a little deceiving, but my shoulder feels good,” he said. “I was able to participate fully in the lifting this morning, so I feel really good.”
So good, in fact, that Locker says he is ready resume play on the football field, as well as in Guitar Hero III with teammate Paul Homer.
And while Locker can talk about next week’s game and joke about the intricacies of rocking out to Foghat — “You can’t sit down while you rock,” he said — the brief injury scare shows just how dangerous the quarterback position can be, especially for a running threat like Locker.
The Huskies will have their quarterback Saturday, but their opponent likely will not. For the second straight day, Oregon State coach Mike Riley said it is doubtful that starting quarterback Sean Canfield will be able to play against the Huskies. Like Locker, Canfield hurt his shoulder running the ball.
Canfield was quoted by the Oregonian today saying, “Throwing a football is definitely out of the question,” the way his arm feels right now.
It’s an ongoing conundrum for the Huskies that will likely go on as long as Locker wears the purple and gold. Where is the balance between risking your quarterback’s health and taking advantage of his talents? At his current pace, Locker will become the first quarterback in Pac-10 history to rush for 1,000 yards, but one well-placed helmet on any carry could change the Huskies’ season.
“It’s very difficult,” Willingham said. “He’s going to take some risks and chances that we don’t script into the normal game sequence. What you try to do is make sure that you are constantly aware of his contact, and try to call our plays — and Tim Lappano, our offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach does a wonderful job of trying to balance that up — and then you try to educate the young man of exactly when you should take a hit and when you shouldn’t take a hit. If you can do those things, then you have a reasonable chance of keeping him healthy.”
A physical runner and safety in high school, Locker hasn’t been shy to take or give a hit this season. On one of Louis Rankin’s many long runs last weekend, Locker served as a lead blocker, driving a defensive back down the field.
“He blocked the guy for half an hour,” Lappano said. “That wasn’t designed. It looked like it was designed, it wasn’t … That’s just him, he’s going to put his face on you.”
Lappano said he even offered to put Carl Bonnell in the game just to give Locker a break, but Locker said he didn’t need to rest.
“You’ve got to understand how hard it is to limit his carries,” Lappano said. “He wants it, he wants the ball. He doesn’t want to come off that field.”
And the Huskies hope they never have a reason to take him off the field.
A new-look Locker? If center Juan Garcia has his way, Locker could show up for Saturday’s game sporting a new look under his helmet. Last week, Garcia “accidentally” got a mohawk when teammate Matt Sedillo botched an attempted fade haircut.
Garcia then made Sedillo go with the same look because, “I didn’t want to feel like a moron.” Since then, Jordan White-Frisbee and Luke Kravitz have joined the mohawk club, and Garcia hopes to add Locker to the list soon.
So will Locker let it happen?
“He told me he wants to, and he might be the only guy who could talk me into it, so who knows, maybe,” Locker said. “I wouldn’t be too surprised if Juan got me to do it.”
Receivers the difference makers? One of the keys to Oregon State’s dominant run defense is the play of their cornerbacks. If they do their jobs well covering receivers in man-to-man coverage, then safeties are free to help out against the run. This formula has helped Oregon State hold opponent’s to just 59.6 rushing yards per game, the second-lowest total in the nation. The Beavers allow only 1.8 yards per carry, which leads the nation.
To be successful, Washington needs to punish Oregon State in those one-on-one situations.
“It puts a premium on your receivers and your quarterback to be very successful against man coverage, and their corners usually do a great job,” Willingham said.
Washington receivers are looking forward to the challenge.
“They’re the number one rush defense in the nation right now, so we’ve got to open up the pass to let that run keep going,” senior receiver Anthony Russo said. “It’s a lot of man, and we love man. We hate that zone stuff, so we’re going to have to make some big plays.”
Golden performance: Apparently Husky coaches liked what they saw in Saturday’s win, because 11 players — the most this season — were awarded gold jerseys for this week’s practice. Those in gold were: Locker, Louis Rankin, Ryan Tolar, Cody Habben, Darin Harris, Mesphin Forrester, Jay Angotti, Paul Homer, Michael Gottlieb, Jordan Reffett, and Greyson Gunheim.
Good health: For the first time in a while, no players practiced in red jerseys to start a week of practice, though Donald Butler (knee) is still sitting out.
Contact Herald Writer John Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on University of Washington sports, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com /huskiesblog