Huskies Insider Blog

Day after: Hot finish worth suffering through slow start

It was about the only thing about Washington football's Holiday Bowl night that wasn't in synchronicity.

Coach Steve Sarkisian shared the post-game podium with quarterback Jake Locker, running back Chris Polk and linebacker Mason Foster - the stars of the Huskies' 19-7 shocker over 17th-ranked Nebraska.

One reporter pointed to each of the team members, and asked what was next.

Heads swiveled, searchign for answer - all before Foster blurted out, "Go to Disneyland!"

Polk heard the phrase, and started the same response - "Yeah, Disneyland."

Then the four looked at one another, and busted up laughing at the sight of their post-game follies.

They deserved a hearty laugh, considering the endless travails the UW went through much of 2010. That being said, unquestionably the Huskies left the New Year on the highest note they had seen in many seasons:

* They had a winning season in their pocket - their first since 2002 (also 7-6).

* They had their first bowl victory since the 2001 Rose Bowl triumph over Purdue.

* They had collected their most wins over ranked opponents (three) since the 2001 season.

"I’m one of these guys who likes incremental improvement, and this is a huge step for us," UW athletic director Scott Woodward told reporters after the game Thursday night.

"I couldn’t be more happy for us and for the kids that competed and withstood those dark gaps of the 0-12 season (in 2008)."

Now on to the guys heading off to the NFL. Spoke to my good pal, Rob Rang, a senior editor of about Locker, Polk, Foster and others:

1, LOCKER: How much can a nationally-televised victory over a ranked team with as many as six defenders who will someday be in the NFL do for a player's stock?

Rang said Locker earned himself a bump.

"The stats were ugly, but if you watched the game, he made throws he needed to," Rang said. "More importantly, he made the throws out of bounds when he needed to.

"You could definitely see the health was back. He was so much faster and stronger than he was all year long. That ability to range your level of play in the most critical of moments – it adds to the legend. And scouts aren’t immune to that either. They see that, and see if you protecft this kid … he can be a successful quarterback."

This game, plus crucial appearances at the Senior Bowl (late January in Mobile, Ala.) and the NFL Combine (late February in Indianapolis), could push Locker back into the top 15 overall picks - and No. 2 quarterback selection behind Stanford's Andrew Luck, Rang said.

2, FOSTER: Rang noted no linebacker in the country has improved his NFL Draft stock over the course of this season than the senior from Seaside, Calif.

Coming into the season, Rang estimated that Foster would go somewhere in the fifth round. Now, it's conceivable that he is a second- to third-round pick.

"It's the production, the intangibles and the leadership," Rang said. "There was a belief (among scouts) that once (Donald) Butler left, maybe the Huskies would fall apart."

Rang said what really aids Foster's cause is that he is a really keen special-teams player - something very attractive to scouts who are in search of an immediate impact player.

"One of the knocks on him is that he’s not that physical, so he’ll have to play middle (linebacker) in a 4-3 scheme," Rang said. "But at the same time, watching him and what he does, he’s got really quick hands, so he slips by blocks so well."

Foster will also play in the Senior Bowl.

3, POLK: The topic of Polk leaving after his sophomore season had become pretty promiment in the days after the Apple Cup.

After Polk's convincing performance against Nebraska, it is likely he's headed out of Montlake, and into the NFL Draft.

It's not a particularly deep class for tailbacks. Alabama's Mark Ingram is the clear-cut top talent of the class, but after that, Rang said Polk is part of a group of five other running backs who could be the No. 2 running back off the board.

"He could be a featured running back in the NFL," Rang said.

Scouts will want to do extensive reseach on Polk's shoulder after offseason surgery, and that could be a factor working against him.

Rang said in the past month, Polk has improved his stock by a "full round" - and is projected to be a second- or third-rounder. Rang has him as the No. 4-6 tailback coming off the board.

Two other players who have perked the interest of NFL personnel gurus this past season are receiver Jermaine Kearse and running back Jesse Callier.