It would be no exaggeration to say that, during his four-year University of Washington career, Jake Locker almost singlehandedly resuscitated a once-great football program that had been shamed into oblivion. He was a tremendously gifted athlete and a genuinely wonderful person, the latter quality taking on heightened importance given UW's prior proclivity for recruiting punks.
But Locker's most important contribution to the Husky football program was his departure from it, as Saturday's stunningly dynamic offensive pummeling of the University of Colorado exhibited.Last September, the Huskies, playing on their home turf, were on the receiving end of such a pummeling at the hands of the University of Nebraska (the Huskies would avenge this loss by beating a listless Cornhuskers squad at year's end in the Holiday Bowl). Locker suffered through his worst game as a Husky, a performance that immediately nuked his Heisman Trophy candidacy.
After that loss, we wrote the following: "Until he [Locker] throws his last pass as a Husky, his extraordinary talents will continue to hamper head coach Steve Sarkisian's offensive vision for the program, much like Spencer Hawes did during his lone year at Hec Ed under head basketball coach Lorenzo Romar...Only when Sarkisian has the freedom to start a quarterback who's content to stay in the pocket...will Husky fans be afforded an unblemished glimpse of what the young Armenian with the headset can do."
The post-Locker returns are now in, and it's quite obvious that Sarkisian is nothing short of an offensive savant.
Yet the Huskies' season-opening win over Eastern Washington--a game UW flatly deserved to lose--had us nervous. The play-calling was ultra-conservative, the passing schemes rudimentary--likely the by-product of Sark overcompensating for quarterback Keith Price's inexperience. And in the week following his squad's lucky win, Sark copped to all of the above, vowing to open things up considerably in subsequent weeks.
With the deepest receiving corps in recent memory and an all-conference tailback (Chris Polk) to leaven the attack, the Husky offense has evolved into a frenzy of no-huddle bliss. The formations are downright avant-garde, and in Price Sarkisian has a passer who, while fleet of foot, has the mettle and intelligence to stay in the pocket under duress.
Locker's no dummy, but he never had the capacity to thrive in such a system. For Sarkisian, it must feel like the governor on his semi has mercifully petered out.