You know the dude: smart, funny, great-looking, utterly devoid of love handles, doesn't need aluminum-tinged deodorant to shut down the pit that won't quit in a humid bar, genuinely listens to people rather than waiting to talk, loves camping and Sarah McLachlan. On paper, and even in person, this guy seems like the sort of male who should be chest-deep in poonanny simply by showing up at the bar. And yet, when closing time comes around, he's doing anything but.
Off the football field, Jake Locker has won the heart of fastpitch studette Lauren Greer. But on it, he's the guy who hails the cab alone at the end of the night, after drinking like a champ and almost--almost--taking home the cutest, smartest gal in the bar.
After a season spent basking in the glow of fawning national media accounts that had him perched toward the top of most NFL draft boards, Locker-bashing has become decidedly en vogue in the wake of UW's crushing loss to Oregon last Saturday, a defeat that likely restricts the Huskies' 2009 trajectory to the finest squad from the Ty Willingham era, a 5-7 squad led by Isaiah Stanback that came within two tough overtime losses of contending for a spot in the Doritos Cool Ranch Bowl.
As Caleb noted yesterday, The Bleacher Report has let rip with a scathing assessment of Locker that concludes: "Jake Locker is the most overrated player in college football, and will be a bust in the NFL." Moreover, "He has prototypical size, he's strong, fast, and has a gun for an arm. So what's not to like? His accuracy and poor decision-making leave much to be desired, and it will lead to failure in the NFL just as it has in college. We have NFL scouts touting Jake Locker as a potential #1 pick in the NFL draft because of his raw ability. No surprise there. After all, it's the same group of 'experts' that made high draft choices out of such notables as Jamarcus Russell, Alex Smith, David Carr, Jeff George, Akili Smith, Tim Couch, Heath Shuler, Rick Mirer, and Ryan Leaf...Everyone, myself included, can acknowledge that Jake Locker has a unique set of skills that makes him a dangerous college football player. That said, he has never lived up to the hype that he receives and is not a proven winner."
Apologists like Art Thiel argue that, once again, it's Locker's anemic supporting cast that's lengthened the team's postseason odds this year. That argument's not without merit, but it's getting pretty tired. While the Dawgs' O-Line isn't performing at an optimal level, Husky recruiters have surrounded Locker with the most talented (if somewhat unseasoned) group of skill position players he's had at his disposal since he made his Montlake debut. And yet, should UW fail in its quest to topple hated ex-Husky helmer Rick Neuheisel and his UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on November 7, the team will be right where it was during Locker's freshman campaign in 2006: 3-6, with the Apple Cup sorrily set to serve as the season's emotional high watermark.
In his column this week, Thiel writes: "Sarkisian said Monday that a large portion of the three practice days during this bye week will be devoted to finding second- and third-string players who might be able to step into the breach caused by inexperience and injury. That mark of desperation brings us back to Locker. The Huskies need him so much that they might love him right into the NFL."
I'd like to think Locker has more pride than that, and will return for a senior season to set things right. After all, if he goes hardship, he'll go down in UW lore as the football equivalent of Spencer Hawes, not to mention the five-tool playa who's left holding his dick at the end of a clumsy night on the make.