September 5, 2008

Season Leaders: Offense

Here are the Huskies six wins
Ryan Petitt
Molly Yanity

They can game plan all they want, scheme until the cows come home, and work all of the players on the roster through the offense. But - at the end of game day - the Huskies go as Jake Locker goes. That's not necessarily a good thing - and if other people don't step up - it will be a long season for the Huskies.

Locker has a cannon of an arm and a mental approach to the game that is impressive. He's a tireless worker that expects to improve - and he needs to. Last season he only completed 47 percent of his passes and had 14 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions. That isn't good enough and Locker knows it.

He's set the bar high and wants to pass for 65 percent this season. He will need to heat up fast - but will also need some help. Last season, drops plagued the receivers and in game one of 2008 it was more of the same. Under constant pressure against Oregon Locker only completed 42 percent of his passes - but most of the blame belongs on the support players

The young skill players will get better and Locker's numbers will improve. How much and how fast is the biggest question of the season. At the end of the day don't expect a major upgrade on Locker's stats from last season mainly because of drops and a grueling schedule against some talented defenses.

Locker's Passing Stats: 168 of 330, 2,234 yards, 18 touchdowns, 12 interceptions.

Locker could be the most talented running quarterback in the nation - yes even better then Pat White! He has blazing speed that allows him to run by lineman and linebackers and a 230-pound frame that allows him to run over defensive backs. He will lead the Huskies in rushing because of his talent, but also because of Washington's running back by committee.

True freshman Chris Polk and sophomore Brandon Johnson will cary much of the load, with true freshman David Freeman and redshirt freshman Willie Griffin also getting into the mix. None will get enough carries to break the 800-yard mark and Locker will.

However, coaches don't want Locker running as much as last season after suffering a hamstring injury during fall practices that sounds like a very good idea.

Locker's Rushing Stats: 168 rushes, 901 yards, 12 touchdowns.

This one is going to be close - D'Andre Goodwin, Jermaine Kearse and Kavario Middleton will all fight for the top spot.

But - teams will watch tape of the Oregon game and Washington receivers can expect to be pressured all season long. That will open up the middle and Locker will see Middleton's big frame wide open often. Middleton is special - and not just because he's big, fast and has amazing hands. He also has the mental makeup of a star. Playing at Autzen stadium last week seemed like a walk in the park for the talented true freshman. Locker will keep the big guy happy and get him the ball often.

Middleton's Receiving Stats: 56 receptions, 799 yards, 5 touchdowns.

Remember that UCLA win in 2006? The one in which quarterback Isaiah Stanback accounted for 248 of the Huskies' 249 yards of total offense? It's going to be déjà vu all over again for Washington's offense this season when quarterback Jake Locker takes the wheel in his second year as signal-caller. Locker, however, isn't just taking the wheel – he's providing the tires.

Last season Jake Locker proved he could throw the deep ball, but in the passing game, he showed little else. He went 155 of 328 (47.3 percent) for 2,062 yards. A more telling stat was his 14 touchdown passes compared to 15 interceptions. Locker promised he'd be more accurate in 2008, but Round one left the uber-talented quarterback on the mat. Locker did not display much touch in his first game going 12 of 28 for 103 yards – no touchdowns, no interceptions. His efficiency rating was a paltry 73.76.

We'll give Locker the fact he was under a lot of pressure from a strong Oregon defense and the running game was going nowhere. Let's just say we expect better.

But how much better?

I think Locker doesn't raise his completion rate and hovers just below 50 percent. Part of that is on him, part of that is on a young, inexperienced receiving corps. But Locker will throw more touchdowns than interceptions this year, showing fans he does have a better handle on the Huskies offense.

Locker's final passing stats: 170 of 361 for 2,522 yards with 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Locker was the leading rusher in the Huskies' season-opener carrying the ball 16 times for 57 yards. He wows when takes off and breaks tackles.

Huskies fans don't want Locker doing all the wowing, though.

Freshman Chris Polk, sophomore Brandon Johnson and the team's able fullbacks must produce on the ground of their quarterback is going to wear thin as the year progresses.

Still, Locker remains the Huskies' biggest threat with the ball. No one is going to take it out of his hands – nor should they.

But too much pressure is already heaped on this man's shoulders. Good thing he's the kind of guy that can handle it.

Here's betting some of Locker's rushing touchdowns go to fullbacks Paul Homer and Luke Kravitz, as well.

Locker's final rushing stats: 198 carries for 1,078 yards with 10 touchdowns.

It's amazing a team's leading returning receiver is a sophomore with six career catches.

D'Andre Goodwin, who is nicknamed "Flea" because of his quickness, had eight catches for 67 yards in his first start. He might've had another reception if it were not for an iffy pass interference penalty.

Expect freshman tight end to make a push for most catches, but Huskies fans will want a prolific pass-catching receiver to lead in the following statistics.

Goodwin's final receiving stats: 65 catches for 792 yards with eight touchdowns.

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