Casey Locker vows to continue to play at 100 percent

PULLMAN — It started with a big hit against Stanford. One deemed legal by the officials.

Andrew Luck’s third-down pass, Casey Locker’s pads and Chris Owusu’s upper arms all arrived at about the 30-yard line at the same time.

The ball went flying, so did Owusu. When a flag didn’t, so did the ire of Stanford coach David Shaw.

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That might have been the beginning of Casey Locker’s month in football jail.

In Washington State’s three games since, Locker, a sophomore safety, has been flagged for three personal fouls, all stemming from bang-bang hits against receivers.

Is Locker being targeted? The simple answer is yes.

“I got a letter basically just stating that Casey has had some high hits and they are concerned,” said WSU coach Paul Wulff. “They want to make sure we discuss it with him and our team. So we did that.”

Though Locker said the coaches have talked with him about hitting lower and to not flail his arms, and he’s trying to follow those instructions, it hasn’t helped.

After the Owusu hit, Locker has been called for:

• A hit on Oregon State receiver Markus Wheaton.

• A late first-half hit on Oregon’s Justin Hoffman. On the play, Locker pulled up and tried to avoid hitting Hoffman, but was still called.

• And a fourth-down personal foul against California’s Keenan Allen that was ruled after the play even though replays seemed to show Locker missed Allen after the ball flew by.

Such calls are perplexing.

“I’m playing the same way I’ve played since I started,” said Locker, who, at 5 feet 11 and 198 pounds, is smaller than many of the receivers he’s defending. “I don’t think they even had these flags in high school.”

Last season, the NCAA strengthened the rules for high hits.

“In football, you have a split-second to make a decision,” Locker said. “It’s not like I’m trying to hit someone in the head. (I’m) trying to make a play, get the guy down and sometimes you hit him a little high.”

Locker said he can’t change his game.

“If I get a chance to make a play, I’m going to go for it 100 percent.”