University of Washington's 2009 expectations 

May, 8, 2009
Lots of Jake Locker talk to lead this week's mailbag:

From Darryl in the Bay Area: Do you think Steve Sarkisian up at UW can have the same initial impact that Charlie Weis did when he took over at Notre Dame. It seems to me that both programs were similar: star QB, good players on both sides of the ball. I have a sneaking suspicion that LSU is in for a rough ride.

Well, aside from the Ty Willingham connection, I don't see the programs as being in similar stages, so I'll say no. And I'm not buying Washington upsetting LSU in the opener. I think LSU will be able to run over the Washington defense.

As for the Notre Dame comparison, I just don't see any shot that Sarkisian can get Washington into a BCS bowl right away. That 2005 Irish team that Weis inherited didn't just come off a winless season and really that ND team had so much more experience around Brady Quinn than what Jake Locker has.

That Irish offense was a veteran group: all five starters were back on the O-line and the group had 101 games in their careers and four of the five skill position guys also were returning starters. That's an incredible amount of experience. Plus, Quinn was a lot further along in his development as a QB than Locker at the same stage (entering his junior season). Quinn went from completing 157 of 332 passes (47 percent) for 1,831 yards and nine TDs with 15 interceptions to completing 191 of 353 pass attempts (54 percent) for 2,586 yards with 17 TD passes and 10 interceptions in his second season of play. That's a pretty good jump. Year three, his first season under Weis, his completion percentage went up to 64 percent and he had a 32-7 TD-INT ratio.

Locker's basically played one full season, where he completed 47 percent of his passes and then played a little more than three games in 2008, where he threw just one TD pass. He's thrown about half as many passes in his career as Quinn had, and his supporting cast of skill guys simply haven't had much work. Worse still, U-Dub's O-line is still very green. The Huskies will need to replace Casey Bulyca, Juan Garcia and Jordan White-Frisbee from last year's front, while the two most seasoned returning linemen Cody Habben and Ben Ossai will be playing different positions from where they had started.

I think expecting the Huskies to win more than five games this season would be overly optimistic. My hunch is the Huskies will only be favorites in two games this year: hosting Idaho and hosting Washington State, but I think they can upset some Pac-10 teams depending on just how much better Locker can play in 2009.

From Jason in Aloha, Oregon: Sure, Jake Locker looked good in the spring game. A lot of players have looked good going up against that pathetic Dawg defense. And considering he went up against the second and third team D, he SHOULD have looked that good. I believe Steve Sarkisian is doing Locker a disservice by NOT having him go up against the best competition possible to prepare him for the season. I envision another season at the bottom of the Pac-10 for those Dawgs, which would just fine by me.

Anyone completing 16 of 18 passes, even in routes on air is impressive, much less in competition. And let's be honest, almost all programs use their spring games as showcases for their fans more than anything else. So obviously the better the offense (and Locker) looks, the more exciting people will be about the new direction of the program. Besides, he did go against the first-team defense in the previous two UW scrimmages, where he unofficially went 20-of-34 for 275 yards with two TDs and no INTs.

From Todd in New Orleans: I've heard a lot about these APR scores and I have to admit I'm surprised at some of the schools that are rated so high. You surprised?

Kinda. As I wrote the other day, the APR system has some quirks in it and critics point out it's more about keeping players eligible than necessarily making sure they graduate. With that, I noticed something interesting when I saw colleague Tim Griffin's post about the APR rankings in the Big 12.

Oklahoma is actually tops at 952. Texas Tech is 10th at 935. This is almost the opposite of what you'd expect knowing that Tech's graduation rate was 79 percent while OU's was 46 percent. (Get full graduation rates here.)

You wonder which measurement is flimsier? An ACC administrator I asked Thursday pointed to the APR. "This isn't going to stop kids from not graduating," he said. "It's just a way for the NCAA to make themselves look good. You can have juniors leave early for the NFL and then, if they make an NFL roster, you can still be a 2-for-2 (on the APR point system), but that doesn't mean you're graduating."

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