UW coach, Locker OK on summer baseball

The question came in many different ways to both Huskies head football coach Tyrone Willingham and his sophomore star quarterback Jake Locker. It’s a wonder their heads didn’t spin.

‘I have no concerns about it,’ says Willingham

The question came in many different ways to both Huskies head football coach Tyrone Willingham and his sophomore star quarterback Jake Locker. It’s a wonder their heads didn’t spin.

Will Locker miss any football while he plays this summer for the Bellingham Bells of the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League? Is Locker, an all-state pitcher and outfielder during his time at Ferndale High, looking for some career insurance in case of another big hit to the scrambling quarterback? Will this affect the quarterback’s performance next season?

The answers from both Willingham and Locker varied, but came to the same point: It’s not a big deal. Let the kid compete.

“Football is still my passion and my love,” Locker said, surrounded by media at UW’s pre-spring football press conference Tuesday. “But baseball is a game I missed, and I’ve got an opportunity to play a little bit this summer when time is permitting.

“It’s something I feel will make my life more enjoyable this summer, and I didn’t want to pass up that opportunity.”

While Locker added that he will not miss any football obligations during the summer, Willingham spent more time praising his quarterback for the improvements made on the football field, rather than what he might be doing on the baseball diamond.

“I know Jake is highly motivated to be a great football player,” Willingham said. “I have no concerns about it. We love having our kids compete.”

Willingham added that he is excited at the prospects of the upcoming season, especially with the improvements his young quarterback has made.

“Last year was a tremendous education for him, especially with the caliber of the teams we played,” Willingham said. “There is no question that Jake has progressed.”

Locker, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year last season, set a school record for rushing yards as a quarterback with 986. He also threw for more yards (2,062) then any other freshman quarterback in UW history.

But the freshman struggled at times, completing only 47.3 percent of his passes.

“I want to complete more passes this year,” Locker said. “We’ve got a really talented group of receivers with a lot of ability and a lot of potential. If they’re able to understand the offense, they’ll be able to play full speed and it will be tough for other teams to contain them.”

The Huskies began spring practice Thursday. Today is the first day the team will be practicing in full pads.

Former Wolverines lose spots

Two players who will not be with the Huskies today are linebacker E.J. Savannah and running back J.R. Hasty, two former Bellevue High School stars.

Both Hasty and Savannah are not with the team for what Willingham described as a “failure to live up to the responsibilities of the football team.

“Right now EJ and J.R Hasty will not be, at this date involved in spring practice.,” Willingham said. “They are still eligible and they can be back at any time.”

Willingham said neither of the players are in legal trouble.

Both players are juniors who had illustrious careers at Bellevue High School, graduating in the class of 2005.

Savannah, who led the Huskies in tackles with 111, will be replaced on the first string defense by junior Joshua Gage. Hasty, who missed the 2006 season due to academic problems, was expected to compete for the vacated starting running back position. Sophomore Brandon Johnson is currently listed as the No. 1 running back.

Hasty also briefly quit the team last season before returning. Willingham said the “window is still open” for Hasty to make a significant contribution to the team.

Bellevue pair join team

Joining the Huskies this spring will be two former Bellevue High School standouts transferring from other colleges, Brandon Lopez and Mick Connors.

Lopez, a long snapper, spent last season redshirting for the University of Michigan. During his four seasons at Bellevue High, the Wolverines went 49-3, winning three state titles. Lopez was named the KingCo Defensive Player of the Year his senior year, and was an All-KingCo linebacker and offensive lineman.

Connors, a 5-foot-11 defensive back, attended the University of San Diego last season and redshirted for the football team.

Both are freshman in terms of eligibility.

Joel Willits can be reached at 425-453-4270 ext 5060 or at jwillits@reporternewspapers.com.