October 25, 2010

Sarkisian: Banged-up Locker better than no Locker

Washington quarterback Jake Locker says he's healthy enough to play against Stanford on Saturday.

The biggest questions raised Monday at the Huskies' weekly press conference, however, were aimed at whether he was healthy enough to be effective.

Locker said his ribs were still sore and he's still suffering from a thigh bruise that has slowed him since the Arizona State game.

But Locker said he will play against the No. 13-ranked Cardinal (6-1) at 4 p.m. at Husky Stadium, and head coach Steve Sarkisian emphasized that using a less-than-100 percent Locker is still the Huskies' best shot at winning.

"He's got general soreness," Sarkisian said. "He's still got the thigh bruise, which obviously limits some of the running, the explosiveness. He's got some sore ribs that have caused him some issues. Those two things can factor in when it's time to run and time to flush out of the pocket and make your plays."

The injuries affected Locker's mobility in the Huskies' 44-14 loss to Arizona Saturday. And that, in turn, affected Washington's play calling as the Huskies opted against focusing on running Locker on usual designed running plays.

"As much as I am a play-caller, I'm the head coach of all these guys not just Jake Locker," Sarkisian said. "These are my kids. These are my guys. I love everything they give us. I love the fact that they come to work every day. But ultimately as much as I want them to perform and to play well, I want them to be healthy.

"I want to make sure I don't expose them to things that could further injure them. I wasn't going to do that with Jake. I wasn't going to put him out there and run him in between the tackles and take hits he didn't (need to) take. That's not the reason we lost the game."

The reason for that largely centered on the Huskies' defense, which gave up 467 yards of total offense for the game and 30 points in the first two quarters.

The UW's defense is allowing 33.1 points per game, second only to Washington State (39.9) for worst in the Pacific-10 Conference.

But the offense, under a banged-up Locker, is also struggling as the Huskies have dropped to 3-4 this season and 2-2 in the Pac-10.

"I don't know if it affects our passing game as much as our running game," Locker said of his injuries. "It just gives us another option when I'm able to run, and one that I wasn't really able to use a whole lot on Saturday. Hopefully, I get to run around a little bit this week and get feeling a little bit better, and then we're able to do what we're accustomed to doing."

Locker, who said he's always worn a flak jacket during games, ran plays with the first team at Monday's practice and didn't appear limited.

The Huskies made some changes with their first-team offensive line at practice, moving Drew Schaefer back to center and Erik Kohler (who missed two starts with mononucleosis) to left tackle. Ryan Tolar and Colin Porter remained at guards and Senio Kelemete switched from left to right tackle, leaving Gregory Christine as the odd man out.

On defense, the most notable change was true freshman Sione Potoa'e from Lakes High School working with the first team at tackle while Everrette Thompson shifted from tackle to end.

Despite the lopsided loss two days earlier, the Huskies ran a spirited practice Monday.

Washington is hoping for that at least this week, its trend continues of following a bad loss with a victory.

"It's been kind of crazy as far as that goes, week in and week out," Locker said. "But I think I've been able to sit up here every week and tell you guys that our practices this year have been awesome. Every week, the guys come prepared, ready to play and practice, bring energy and a tempo to practice that is something that we're looking for. I think our preparation has been good and consistent. For one reason or another, the consistency on Saturdays just hasn't been there."

With Locker limited, freshman quarterback Keith Price of Compton, Calif., is waiting in the wings.

Under what circumstance would Sarkisian sit Locker?

"If I don't think Jake gives us the best chance to win," he said.

That seemed eons from Sarkisian's mind.

Wednesday update: After Wednesday's practice, Sarkisian was encouraged and said Locker was doing better than he has been in recent weeks.

Thursday update: Sarkisian's comments on Locker after Thursday's practice: "I think he looks great. This has been his best week of practice in almost a month. I thought he looks good. His movement is much better than it's been in the last few weeks. I expect him to go out and play a really passionate football game."


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