Jake Locker has faced this decision before, but never with the amount of money, or the sport of football involved.
A young man of exceptional talent, Locker has been drafted twice by the Angels, signing a contract the second time, but one that did not limit him from football.
This year he is eligible for the 2010 NFL draft , and is projected as a high first round pick.
Despite the interest from the professional leagues, his football career at the University of Washington that has led to an 8-20 record, with one game remaining in the 2009 season.
There are many factors in that win-loss record, but aren’t there always? Locker has had to deal with injuries, change in offensive philosophies, and change in overall coaching staffs during his three-year career.
Some blame it on the turnover of talent.
It is said the ultimate judge of a quarterback is his record as a starter. Is Locker an exception to the rule?
Jake is a natural athlete who can astound you with runs. If you missed the 2007 season, go to Youtube and check out the highlights, they are impressive. His throwing has been suspect, and the coaching staff of Tyrone Willingham looked to take advantage of his speed, reportedly in the 4.4 range, to turn around a struggling Washington program.
The problem with this strategy was it led to Locker going down with a season ending injury four games into the 2008 season. This resulted in Washington having a historically bad 0-12 season. The season he did play the majority of the games, 2007, only resulted in four wins.
His stats, however, were impressive for a redshirt freshman on the ground. He ran for nearly 1000 yards at 986 while missing two games, and ran at a 5.7 yards a carry pace.
His stats through the air, however, not so impressive, completing only 47 percent of his passes and had 14 touchdowns to 15 interceptions.
New Head Coach Steve Sarkisian, a well-respected quarterbacks coach in his own right, wanted turn Locker into a more prototypical pocket-passer, one the NFL would be more interested in.
The results on the field for the Huskies have been mixed.
The up and down 2009 season has resulted in another four wins to Locker’s record. There is no denying his vast improvement as a passer, he is completing 56 percent of his passes and has 18 touchdowns to 11 interceptions.
His improvements through the air have come at the price of his abilities on the ground. Whether through increased focus on finding the open receiver, or being banged up with various injuries, Locker has not been near the threat on the ground that he was in the past. Locker has rushed for a total of 311 yards at 3.2 yards per carry average.
It was to be expected his numbers would be down, Sarkisian is not sending him on designed running plays. It is Jake’s hesitancy to run that has made fans wonder if he is over thinking the situation, and the coaching staff should work on letting him use his naturally abilities more.
It is a difficult balance to find, that is to be sure.
As far as Locker’s NFL potential, Sarkisan’s tutelage has paid dividends. Some draft boards have Locker going in the top 10, and he is generally regarded as one of the top quarterback prospects if he were to come out.
Apparently he doesn’t have to win games to be picked as a franchise quarterback. The scouts see enough in his improvement under Sarkisian, and his natural athletic ability, to think "we can build a team around this guy."
The decision Jake has to make comes down to obviously money, but also what he feels is the best way to develop. If he is thrown out as a starter next year in the NFL, he will likely get eaten alive. If he is given a chance to sit behind a proven starter, however, how does that coaching compare to what he is receiving now?
Is playing time in college more useful than sitting and learning from a NFL coaching staff?
That is the question Jake Locker will have to answer, himself.
The Husky fans would love to see him come back, but we certainly understand if he decides to go.