FROM No.1 PICK TO MR. IRRELEVANT?
The famous saying goes "you'll be known by the company you keep." And if that's the case, Washington quarterback Jake Locker may not like how he'll be remembered.
By now we've all seen Locker's stat line from the 56-21 beat down by Nebraska over the Huskies last Saturday:
4 for 20, 71 yards, 2 INT's
And we've also seen the corresponding exclusive club he joined:
QB's since 2004 who have completed 20% or less of their passes
What we haven't seen is just who is this company he now keeps:.
PAT JULMISTE, South Florida, 2004
College Football Reference lists him as a freshman punter, who, in his sophomore season, now playing quarterback, went 3-20, 67 yards, 1 INT in a 41-9 loss at No. 5 Louisville.
ALLAN EVRIDGE, Kansas State, 2005
A freshman from Nebraska, with a chance to live his boyhood dream by playing in Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, went 5-27, 77 yards, one INT in a 27-25 thriller of a loss to the Cornhuskers. He also ran 30 times for 138 yards and two TD's.
MIKE McGANN, Temple, 2005
The 5th year senior quarterback for a Temple team that would finish 0-11, went 4-20, 38 yards, one INT at No. 12 Wisconsin, losing 65-0.
JUSTIN TUGGLE, Boston College, 2009
Another freshman, in just his third start, after going 2-0, goes 4-20, 23 yards, three INT's in a 25-7 loss at Clemson. This was his final game for the Eagles. He has since transferred to Blinn College and has received letters from Mississippi State, Southern Miss and...that's right, the University of Washington.
Not exactly a who's who of great college quarterbacks, but an exclusive club nonetheless. What you'll also notice is:
- All four previous games were on the road - Locker was in the friendly confines of Husky Stadium
- All four QB's had sub-.500 career completion percentages - Locker is a 53% passer
- None of the four were highly rated high school prospects - Locker was a can't miss blue chip recruit
- None of the four have played a down in the NFL (nor are any of them likely to) - Locker is currently (at least pre-Nebraska) the odds-on favorite to be the #1 pick in the upcoming draft
Not the kind of company you would think a future No. 1 draft pick would keep. In fact, it's looking more and more obvious that Locker should have left after his junior year, when he was also projected to be the top pick. At least then the worst-case scenario would have been joining the company of Tim Couch and David Carr - except with millions of dollars in the bank.
If I'm an NFL GM it's doubtful that I would roll the dice on Locker anywhere in the draft. Is that possible? Could he go from potential No. 1 to undrafted, or Mr. Irrelevant (the final pick in the draft)?
Highly unlikely, in fact I have a feeling once the dust settles on the NFL Combine, and the collective drool is wiped from the mouths of the GM's in attendance, the hype machine will start up again. And I'm sure Mr. Locker's bank account will be just fine.
Nevertheless, he may want to look into seeing if that insurance policy he took out before the season covers extremely poor play under pressure situations. If not, I guess he always has baseball.
"But Locker has no talent around him."
First of all, a good quarterback, or in this case a great quarterback (if you're going to be touted as a program savior and Heisman candidate you can't just be good) needs to elevate those around him.
Second of all, there is just as much talent, if not more, around him as there is at Boise State, Oregon State and Oregon. Year-in and year-out the Huskies compete for the same recruits as their northwest rivals and more often than not fare just as well or better.
According to Scouts.com, Washington has finished with a higher-rated class of recruits than Boise State, Oregon State and Oregon three of the last five years. And are currently outpacing them in 2011 as well. The two years they didn't were 2009, Tyrone Willingham's last year, and 2007, when Oregon had its only top 10 class - however, they still outranked Boise State and Oregon State.
And it's often not even close (especially compared to the Broncos and Beavers):
National Recruiting Rankings
Obviously there have been injuries, departures, transfers, etc., but every school has those. The fact of the matter is that Washington has enough talent to not just be winning more games, but to be competitive in ALL games. No excuses.
THE DEATH OF A PROGRAM
In presidential politics the old campaign saying is "are you better off than you were four years ago?" Well, Husky fans?
When Jake Locker joined the Husky football team, it wasn't long (just a few snaps into the win at Syracuse his freshman year) that he was anointed the savior of a once-proud football program, fresh off of 2-9 and 1-10 seasons in 2005 and 2004, respectively.
And yet after a career featuring very few highlights and many many lowlights, what we're left with is a massively underachieving talent who will leave his program certainly no better off than when he joined it.
In the four years preceding his arrival in 2006, the Huskies went a not-so-impressive 16-31. Since 2007, after Locker redshirted the 2006 season, Washington is 10-30 (9-22 in his starts). In other words, to get the program back to where he found it, he'll need to lead them to a 6-1 mark over the next seven games. Not likely.
So, if the current state of the program, which should be at its pinnacle, with a potential No. 1 pick coming back for his senior season and a run at the Heisman, but is actually staring down the barrel of another losing season you have to question its future.
Add to that the fact that the coaching staff is young and unproven (head coach Steve Sarkisian has yet to prove his rep as a quarterback guru - look no further than the lack of improvement from Locker's junior to senior years) and that they will essentially be starting over next season with a freshman quarterback, Nick Montana (or perhaps Justin Tuggle).
And perhaps most significant, they look around at their northwest rivals, and see teams competing for Rose Bowls and National Titles, while with similar talent they have yet to see a bowl game since the 2002 Sun Bowl.
The future of the Husky football program appears to be clinging to its last breath, the memory of a split National title won before their current recruits were even born. And as they cling to this last breath, these fading memories, the future of the Husky football program appears at best to be on life support.
When in fact, it's dead.