Huskies Insider Blog

Sarkisian's message: Proceed with caution on Locker

When the opportunity is important enough - and very wide-ranging - UW coach Steve Sarkisian usually comes to his weekly press conference Monday with a piece of paper containing a bunch of scribbled-down notes.

For all that ails the Huskies, especially the leaky, overmatched special teams coverage units of Saturday at No. 1 Oregon, the most popular topic remains the health of senior Jake Locker (broken rib) at quarterback.

For that, Sarkisian needs no list. He knows what has to happen.

"If the doctors give him the clearance to play, we’ll assess how he looks as we get prepared for the (UCLA) ballgame," the Huskies' second-year coach said. "If they deem him out, or rule him out, then we’ll go forward ahead with Keith Price."

Locker will be out of action this week during the team's bye, which means Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday practices.

The whole operation shuts down Thursday and Friday to rest, and on Saturday, it fires back up - as if it is the Monday of a normal week heading into a Saturday game (since the UCLA game is on a Thursday, the Huskies start preparation Saturday).

The weekend will be a crucial time for Locker in whether he'll become available to play in his final home game at Husky Stadium.

"I'm not going to put him on the field if he hasn't practiced," Sarkisian said. "That's going to be critical as we get into Saturday, Sunday, Monday of where he's at and how much he can do."

Sarkisian understands the fear of making Locker the central subject this week. His quarterback is not only a senior who would love nothing more than to play in front of the home crowd one final time, but he's also a team captain - an exemplary leader.

"I think that we could make a mistake here of putting all of our eggs in Jake Locker’s basket. That’s not what the point of all of this is about," Sarkisian said. "If we get Jake back, that’s great, we’d love to have him - he’s a fantastic football player. But if we don’t, that doesn’t mean we can’t win the game. And if we do, that doesn’t mean we automatically win the game. We’ve got to prepare as a football team for this ball game next Thursday night."

Outside influences on that decision will be best blocked out. The only voices that will be heard in whether Locker plays or not are from the medical staff, Locker, his parents and the coaching staff.

"This isn’t going to be an emotional decision," Sarkisian said. "It will be a calculated, educated decision."

Other stuff:

* Defensive end Cameron Elisara's career is over at the UW. Sarkisian said since the senior from Spokane suffered yet another stinger in his shoulder against Arizona - a reccuring injury - the strength just hasn't return.

"It's not showing the improvement," Sarkisian said.

Elisara wasn't even at practice last week. For his career, the Ferris High product played in 38 games, including 21 starts. He started six games this season at either defensive tackle or end.

* No big surprise here, but Sarkisian did add some clarity to Johri Fogerson's situation, saying he did not expect the junior to be back this season with an upper-leg injury.

Defensive end Talia Crichton (knee) is running up and down, but his lateral movement isn't where it needs to be, so he's still a ways from being fully back.

Also, receiver Jordan Polk (concussion) should be back in time for UCLA. The status of both tight end Chris Izbicki (sprained foot) and safety Justin Glenn (concussion), who got hurt in the Oregon game, is uncertain.

* Yes, special teams will be under heavy scrutiny this week. Sarkisian said tweaks in the schemes - once again - and personnel changes likely will be forthcoming as the Huskies try and find ways to better contain returners.

* Last season at this time, the Huskies had a November bye - and reeled off back-to-back impressive victories afterward to close out 2009.

Sarkisian said the approach this week will be similar by resting some veterans, and auditioning younger players.

"Hopefully we can get them more involved so we can be a fresh football team down the stretch, but also from a perspective of a schedule, and the way we're doing things and how we are doing things and the number of reps and service teams and whatnot, I think we will try to emulate what we did last year at this time," Sarkisian said.

"That doesn't mean that there is a golden button you push and - poof! - you win three ball games. There's a lot of work that goes into this. But I think there is a real belief in what we're doing and how we're doing it, and I think our kids understand that."

* After the game, UW linebacker Cort Dennison kidded that he hoped his coach continued to work as the scout-team quarterback, like last week - only next time, with pads on so the defense could get some licks in.

Responded Sarkisian on Monday: "Cort Dennison, man ... that guy's got a big mouth."

The coach did say he could see value in donating some of his efforts with the scout team, from time to time.

"At this point in the year, practices can go on and on and on ... it's almost like 'Groundhog Day' when you're getting out there. To all of a sudden look up and the head coach is at quarterback and running around and I'm trying to talk a little smack to 'em to get practice livened up and going was good," Sarkisian said.

"For me personally, it was good to watch our defensive coaches, to see how they practice, the energy and enthusiasm they bring, and from another perspective is for the offensive coaches to take more of an active role in the offense without me down there. So I think it was good for a lot of parties involved. Whether we do that as we head into UCLA week is yet to be determined, but for myself personally, it was probably good conditioning and much-needed ... so if they want me to do it, I'll do it again."

** MONDAY PRACTICE REPORT: Not much. Most of the regulars went through a full workout - with the notable exception being running back Jesse Callier (shoulder), who was injured during the Oregon game. Also missing was safety Justin Glenn (concussion) and defensive end Talia Crichton (knee), who was limping around pretty badly on the sideline. ... Receiver Jordan Polk (concussion) and Callier wore the red jersey. Polk did practice. ... The receiving corps stuck around an extra 10-15 minutes for pass-catching stuff. Could have been in direct response to a few key drops against Oregon.


A couple of interesting tidbits:

* He was asked when Locker returned, could he see himself playing both the senior and Price, a redshirt freshman - with an eye on the present and future.

"Not a big guy in platooning a quarterback," Sarkisian said. "It's a position of rhythm."

* The coach was asked what kind of defense would it take to slow down Oregon's offense.

1, A defense with eight quality defensive linemen, six linebackers and defensive backs who are exceptional in man-to-man coverage to limit the Ducks' bubble screens and naked bootlegs by the quarterback.

2, A unit that gets its calls early and is stabilized when the ball is snapped. Sarkisian said often Oregon is able to strike big at the expense of an opposing defense's chaos.

3, Who? Sarkisian named Texas Christian, Boise State and Ohio State as three teams he thought had a chance.

* Rumors about what jerseys the Huskies will wear for the Nov. 18 game against UCLA - on a Thursday, and on national television (ESPN) - have been circulating for weeks.

Many think the UW will wear black-colored jerseys.

Sarkisian was asked about it. His response? "There will be a black theme," he said.