They went through 12 grueling football games together, and now coach Steve Sarkisian and Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Locker have one more game plan to map out to finish the season.
It will determine Locker’s future in the program.
The pending question for hours, days and weeks around Montlake, leading up to the Jan. 15 deadline for underclassmen to declare for next spring’s NFL Draft: Will Locker turn professional or will he return for his senior season at the UW?
There was no resolution of that matter Tuesday when Sarkisian held his final weekly press conference, recapping his first season.
His meeting with the media lasted 25 minutes, with the first part focused solely on the Locker decision.
“I had a nice meeting with him (Monday), and we’re starting to compile all the right information,” Sarkisian said. “He’s having some nice conversations with people.”
Locker is coming off his best season with the Huskies. He completed 230 of 394 passes for 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also had 388 rushing yards and seven scores.
Two days after the junior from Ferndale led the UW to a season-ending 42-10 triumph over then-No. 19 California at Husky Stadium, he and Sarkisian held a one-on-one meeting on campus.
They talked about some of the topics brought up in a similar meeting among Locker’s braintrust – the player, his parents, Sarkisian, UW offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and athletic director Scott Woodward – during the team’s bye week in mid-November.
Sarkisian disclosed some of the issues that will factor into Locker’s decision:
• The needs of NFL teams picking high in the draft, scheduled for April 22-24 in New York.
• The other quarterbacks who will be part of the pool, including Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, Texas’ Colt McCoy, Florida’s Tim Tebow and Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen, who Monday said he would enter the NFL Draft and forego his senior season.
• History of underclassmen quarterbacks and how they’ve ultimately fared in the league.
• The NFL Draft evaluation – and draft-slot estimation – he’ll receive from the league, which likely will be known sometime in early January. Locker filed that paperwork Monday.
• And, perhaps as crucial a factor as any, what the benefits would be in remaining another season in the UW’s pro-style system, as opposed to spending next year in an NFL system.
All of that will take time, the first-year UW coach said, noting it’s that type of “information that really matters.” He added he doesn’t want Locker to “get caught up in the fluff, or things going on in the perimeter” that could betray his decision.
Sarkisian has experience in the matter. He was a close adviser for Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez as their quarterbacks coach when they considered leaving Southern California early to go to the NFL.
“Ultimately, with all of these types of decisions ... (they) have to come from your heart and soul,” Sarkisian said.
One issue that draft pundits have suggested will weigh heavily on this class of underclassmen is the possibility that a rookie salary cap will be in place by the 2011 season.
“They’ve been talking about that thing for five or six years now,” Sarkisian said. “That was one of the ploys to get Leinart to come out early that some of the agents were using.”
The coach was asked if he felt the need to re-recruit Locker back to the program.
“No, I want him to feel good about what he’s doing and not feel like we tried to recruit him back here,” Sarkisian said. “Don’t get me wrong, we would love to have Jake Locker back next year. We would love to have him as our quarterback, as our leader. ... This isn’t about that we don’t want him. I want him to make this decision based on what he feels is right, not us trying to persuade him into one way or the other.”
For those people who believe ultimately that the millions of dollars will be the determining factor for Locker, Sarkisian said he believes otherwise.
“It’s not about money with this guy. He could have signed out of high school and made millions of dollars playing baseball,” Sarkisian said “This is about what he loves to do. I think he loves playing football. It’s a matter of where he’s going to play football.”
Sarkisian continues to hit the recruiting trail. The team received an oral commitment from Hawaii offensive tackle Micah Hatchie on Monday, marking the 26th commitment of this class. Sarkisian said he expects to sign “upwards of about 30 guys” in 2010. ... After a season devoid of drama, rifts or tension, Sarkisian said he expects to retain all of his assistants and support staff members. ... One of the things he is considering doing next season is changing practice times. “We’re going to possibly look at practicing in the morning instead of the afternoon because of our class schedules and timing for our kids,” he said. ... Sarkisian plans on keeping an open-practice policy next season.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442