August 8, 2008

Huskies Take Huge Hit at Quarterback Position

Washington's quarterback situation looks good for the upcoming season, although it took an impending hit yesterday when sophomore Jake Locker suffered a hamstring injury. While it seems relatively minor, Locker's injury has certainly raised a red flag and caused concern amongst the Husky faithful.

"Yes he did sustain an injury - it was a hamstring strain, but the degree we don't know," explained Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham. "We will be monitoring as we go, and the thought process will be to take things slow and day-to-day."

Locker explained what happened, and remains optimistic towards the situation.

"I kept a read zone, went around the outside, went to turn up field and I couldn't do what I normally do. I didn't go down, I kind of did a little hop and skip. They checked me out and I put ice on it after that," explained Locker. "But it's just a little bit sore, nothing too bad. If anything, it will be good for me to watch the game and study it - I will be learning while I'm out there."

Injuries happen - Willingham knows that. Though he did address the impact of injuries to quarterbacks.

"The leadership role is so much different from that position, so it casts a shadow on the football team when you lose someone at that position," expressed Willingham. "But that is what you prepare for all of the time. The team has to have that kind of mentality, whether it's the starting guard or starting tackle. He's got to be ready to step up and lead the charge."

The man that will lead the charge for the Huskies, for the time being, should be redshirt freshman Ronnie Fouch. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder, who enrolled early to participate in 2007 spring practices, traveled and dressed for every game last season as the third string quarterback behind Locker and departed senior Carl Bonnell.

Fans might worry if Fouch were to take over the reigns of the starting position, but Locker feels confident in his teammate's ability.

"Ronnie did a great job yesterday coming in and running the offense. I don't think we lost anything there. Those guys respect him, he's got control of the huddle and he does a good job," expressed Locker. "He will keep the offense on track and I will be able to take mental notes while I'm out there - I just can't take the throws."

Willingham stated that Fouch has previously shown enough to the Husky coaching staff to garner playing time.

"We talked about it during the spring, that some of the things we saw from Ronnie had really positioned us as a staff to get him some playing time regardless," said Willingham.

However, Fouch doesn't worry about the amount of playing time he'll receive.

"The coaches have hinted to me about that, but I'm not worried about that right now," expressed Fouch of receiving playing time. "I'm worried about camp and getting better - working on the things that I need to work on right now. I'm not looking into the future."

Redshirt freshman walk-on Taylor Bean may not be a name many Husky fans have heard. However, with the injury to Locker, Bean currently finds himself as the second-string quarterback behind Fouch. Bean chose to walk-on at Washington over various scholarship offers from smaller Division-III schools.

"I had some offers from some smaller schools, but I want the education of a bigger school - that kind of of experience. I figured I was going to come to school here no matter what, regardless," expressed Bean. "I got a call from Coach Randy Hart. He told me I could walk on here, so that was a bonus for me. Being able to walk on and go to school where I wanted to go - being in that position to do both things - it's nice."

Heading into fall camp, you'd be hard pressed to find someone that thought Bean would play this season. Now, the idea isn't as far fetched as many would like to believe, and Bean discussed the possibility of seeing the field.

"That's what happened last year too in the Cal game - same kind of thing. They told me to get prepared. I've just got to do that every week, no matter what - regardless. I've got to come prepared and know what I'm doing, that's my job as a quarterback," explained Bean. "It hits me. Obviously it's going to hit you. Thoughts are going to come into your mind - 'wow, I might hit the field', but I'm ready. I'm ready when it comes for me."

First and foremost though, every opportunity will be given to Fouch to earn the starting job, and Bean is confident in the abilities of the current first-teamer.

"Ronnie has got a cannon. He's got an arm like no other. He impressed me, especially last year, with how fast he knew the plays. He knew the playbook - he knew exactly what he was doing," expressed Bean. "He's real professional about it. I don't want to sound cliche, but he's playing like a pro. That's what he's got to do - he's taking care of business. I think he's ready to step up. I feel confident in him out there just as much as anyone else."

Regardless of who takes the field as the starting quarterback come August 30th, they will have very few experienced players surrounding them at the skill positions. However, Fouch believes the pure athleticism of the young playmakers, and more specifically the wide receivers, will offset to some degree, their inexperience.

"They're all young, inexperienced guys, except for D'Andre Goodwin and Curtis Shaw. But they're all speed burners - fast guys. They all can catch the ball and they're all hungry right now," expressed Fouch. "All of our receivers are young, but they're all ready to play - they all want the ball. That's a big thing because most young guys are nervous out there - not really sure if they want the ball, but these guys are all hungry. They all want the ball. They're all fast and athletic, so it's fun to watch."

Bean further discussed the Husky receivers, and the difference between this season's group, compared to the 2007 version.

"The difference is we have a lot more speed, it's ridiculous. They're real smart and they want to play," expressed Bean. "The coaches have been saying 'we're going to play the best guys, we don't care how old they are'. They've got that mentality and you've got to appreciate that. I like it a lot, it's going to be fun."

True freshman Luther Leonard will also look to compete with Bean for the team's third string spot. Leonard, an Evergreen High School product, is taking things slow and steady thus far.

"Play length and attention to detail - that's the biggest difference from high school to college. Speed is different too, but that's the last of my worries right now. I'm trying to focus on learning the plays and getting the plays down," explained Leonard. "It's tough, it's a lot to learn, but once you get the playbook down, you know what you're doing - I'll be alright."

Leonard is likely to redshirt this season, but hasn't discussed, with the coaches, whether or not he'll actually be doing so.

"We haven't really talked about that yet. If I could learn everything before we play Oregon, which I doubt, than playing would be awesome," exclaimed Leonard. "But once I know what I'm doing, completely 100 percent, than I'll be fine with playing. Until then, I don't want to get in there and not know what I'm doing."

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