For the first time in a very long time, several Washington Huskies players were individuals of interest at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. In the last few years, players like Isaiah Stanback and Donald Butler would have to go it alone as Washingtons talent deficit accelerated, but the upturn in Husky fortunes was reflected in the 2011 combine since quarterback Jake Locker, linebacker Mason Foster, and safety Nate Williams all participated.
Locker was obviously the marquee name from the school; thought to be a sure-fire top pick had he left school before the 2010 draft, Locker has undergone a lot of scrutiny both during and after his senior season. For every positive to his game mobility, leadership, intensity there are equal questions about his accuracy, consistency, and ability to read complex defenses.
But on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf, Locker looked very solid the work hes been doing with former New York Jets quarterback Ken OBrien in Irvine, CA, is obviously paying off. Locker looked very good on deep throws, better than average in the multiple shorter and intermediate routes he threw, and more consistent overall. It was the more mature Locker people saw through the 2010 season, and he spoke to that in Indy.
As a player and as a person, I’m a lot more prepared for this process, Locker told the media. Doing things like this, going through this process and being comfortable going through it. I don’t think I would have been as prepared for it last year. To be able to go out and go through the workouts and have confidence in what I was doing personally. I feel a lot better after having another year playing with the coaches that I did and the system that I did. I’m very thankful for that.
Cleveland Browns team president and former Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren, perhaps the greatest living evaluator of the quarterback position, told KJRs Dave Mahler Thursday that he was very impressed with what he saw.
Im not going to comment on that (Lockers draft status or where he might go in the draft), but I will comment on Jakes workout, Holmgren said. I thought he showed great movement; and I thought he had a pretty good workout, I really did. He threw the ball crisply. I didnt get a chance to see him much this last year; I had seen him more in years past as a fan of the University of Washington. I thought he did fine in Indianapolis. I dont know what other people are saying, but he did a nice job.
For Mason Foster, the Pac-10s leading tackler in 2010, the task was to prove that he could build on a very solid Senior Bowl and prove to those talent evaluators who may have missed him all the way out here in South Alaska that hes the kind of player who can start and make a real impact in the NFL.
He impressed through his drills, running a 4.67 40-yard dash and placing among the leaders in the short shuttle and three-come drill. More importantly, Foster continued to impress with his in-game intelligence, an extremely valuable asset for any linebacker especially one who may be asked to play in the middle or call the defense from outside in nickel situations.
“It’s just my instincts, Foster said of his in-game savvy. I’ve played linebacker my whole life and I’ve got real good instincts. I watched film a lot. We had a lot of older players — Donald Butler and Roy Lewis — who taught me that if you watch film, you can take care of half your stuff before the ball is even snapped. It put me ahead of the game a little bit.”
Williams has been the lost man to some degree, even locally. While Locker and Foster got all the pre-combine love, Williams put up some impressive number of his own. The 6-foot, 211-pound string safety ran a 4.68 40-yard dash, but looked good in the agility drills and on the field in defensive back tests.
It was a banner week for a Washington program just pulling itself out of the gutter after years of nasty hits to the program. No doubt there will be more drafts like this in years to come; the Sarkisian recruiting acumen virtually guaranteed an influx of draftable players a few years down the road.
But for the last few survivors of Ty Willinghams 0-12 special and theres still Chris Polk to be discussed next year the 2011 combine was a great reward for a trio of players who stuck it out and won in the end.