Despite a thigh bruise and sore ribs, Washington quarterback Jake Locker is confident he will play against Stanford on Saturday at Husky Stadium.
There remain questions about what’s in the future for the Washington Huskies as they pick up the pieces after Saturday’s 44-14 loss to Arizona.
What’s not in doubt is whether quarterback Jake Locker will play Saturday when Stanford comes to Husky Stadium for a 4 p.m. kickoff on Versus.
“I’ll be able to play,” the quarterback said confidently when he met with the media Monday.
Locker later took part in much of Monday’s non-contract practice, after which UW coach Steve Sarkisian said on his radio show that Locker looked better than he had the previous two Mondays.
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Locker suffered a thigh bruise against Arizona State, and has sore ribs from the Oregon State game. While there has been speculation he might have at least one broken rib, Sarkisian denied that, saying flatly “no,” when asked. Whatever the case, Locker admitted Monday his ribs are “pretty sore,” an injury the Huskies tried to keep quiet last week. For the second straight week, Locker had been limited in practice, participating fully only on Thursday.
Sarkisian said he hopes Locker will be able to do more this week.
“He was better than he was last week,” Sarkisian said. “Hopefully we foresee him practicing earlier in the week than he did last week to get him a few more reps.”
Locker said he also hoped to do more this week, saying, “I’ll just take it day to day.”
Locker said he was “close to 90 percent” during the Arizona game, and the only real limitation was running the ball, specifically up the middle, where he would be more prone to hits.
Sarkisian said the injuries limited what the Huskies could do, though he added, “That’s not the reason we lost the game.”
Indeed, Locker led UW on two scoring drives in the first 22 minutes but the Huskies simply couldn’t keep up with Arizona’s offensive onslaught as the Wildcats gained 356 yards in the first half.
Still, Locker’s injuries have led some to wonder if the Huskies wouldn’t be better off going with backup Keith Price, a redshirt freshman, if Locker remained limited.
Sarkisian said simply “no,” that for now, Washington’s best chances rest with Locker at quarterback.
The injuries, however, have contributed to a senior season that hasn’t developed quite the way anyone envisioned when Locker decided in December to return.
Washington is fighting to stay alive for a bowl berth at 3-4 and now facing Stanford and Oregon — maybe the two best teams in the Pac-10 — the next two weeks.
Locker ranks eighth in the Pac-10 in passing efficiency at 131.4, completing 56.5 percent of his passes — down from 58.4 of a year ago and far below the 65 to 68 percent goal Sarkisian said before the season was realistic.
Not only are the Heisman Trophy hopes gone, but Locker’s NFL draft status has also taken a hit. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., wrote last week that the decreased completion percentage “will be a red flag for some scouts.”
Locker, though, said Monday “the draft is not what I’m worried about.”
And Locker hasn’t been helped by the fact that UW has played the past three games with little or no contribution from injured Devin Aguilar; has gotten little all season from James Johnson, also dealing with an injury much of the season; and hasn’t replaced the pass-catching ability of tight end Kavario Middleton.
Aguilar, who had 18 catches in the first four games before suffering a hip injury in practice before the Arizona State loss, could be back to regular duty this week. He was on the field for just a few plays against Arizona. He practiced Monday as much as he has since the injury.
“I think if we’re able to get him back it gives us a good deep threat — a guy who has made a lot of big plays for us over the past few years,” Locker said.
• Sarkisian said LB Victor Aiyewa, who didn’t start against Arizona with a knee injury, should be back in the lineup this week. He ran with the starting defense during practice.
• DE Cameron Elisara, who sat out the second half against Arizona with a recurrence of a lingering shoulder stinger, is doubtful this week. One option is moving Everrette Thompson back out to end and inserting true freshman Sione Potoa’e.
• UW unveiled another offensive line combination during practice with true freshman Erik Kohler, who has been sidelined or limited the past three weeks with mono, returning to to the starting unit at right tackle. That had Drew Schaefer shifting back to center, where he started before moving to tackle before the Oregon State game.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.