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Originally published Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Ronnie Fouch gaining confidence as Jake Locker sits with injury

As quarterback Jake Locker watched from the sideline Monday, redshirt freshman Ronnie Fouch continued to get a crash course in how to lead...

Seattle Times staff reporter

As quarterback Jake Locker watched from the sideline Monday, redshirt freshman Ronnie Fouch continued to get a crash course in how to lead the Washington team.

That isn't likely to continue much longer. Huskies coach Tyrone Willingham said Monday there is "no major concern" about Locker's left hamstring, which was injured Thursday. Locker could be back any day.

For now, though, Fouch is getting almost every snap in practice.

"He's getting 90 percent of the reps," said Huskies offensive coordinator Tim Lappano. "To the point that I have to make sure that I don't get his arm sore or anything like that."

Fouch says not to worry. Although he hasn't worked this hard since high school, the arm is fine.

Besides, he's used to crash courses.

While UW fans may not know much about Fouch, to coaches and teammates he's already something of a long-in-the-tooth veteran.

Despite officially being a redshirt freshman, Fouch has been on campus since March 2007 and participated in two spring practices, graduating early from Redlands (Calif.) East Valley High School so he could get a head start on college.

Fouch says he thinks the early entry is paying off now.

"I can tell a big difference," Fouch said. "Especially with the new QBs in here now knowing how they feel trying to learn the offense, and defensive backs are flying everywhere. They don't know what's going on."

Fouch feels now as if he does.

Asked how confident he would be if called on to play Aug. 30 at Oregon, he says: "Oh, very confident. I'm always confident in myself. Now it's just getting more of a rhythm and becoming more and more confident every day."

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UW coaches say that is beginning to happen.

Fouch struggled with his accuracy at times last spring, but has worked on improving his footwork — making sure he didn't take too big of a step — which has apparently paid off.

"Ronnie has had a couple of good days," Lappano said. "He's throwing the ball with really good accuracy, throwing the ball well deep down the field, and he's got good command of the huddle. He's making a lot of good decisions."

And while few QBs could come close to Locker's dual-threat skills, UW coaches say the offense doesn't look much different with the 6-1, 205-pound Fouch in control as he also possesses decent running skills.

"We have not taken anything out because Jake's out," Lappano said. "He can do everything we have in and he's OK with that. He's not Jake, mobility-wise, but he can move pretty well and he's pretty crafty with his feet."

But he's kept them firmly planted with the Huskies since committing in summer 2006 despite some pressure to reconsider. After giving UW the word, Cal coach Jeff Tedford gave Fouch the hard sell about becoming a Bear, instead.

"They made a big run at me," said Fouch, who also considered Boise State. "But I was committed to here, and I told coach Willingham that I committed to you and I'm not backing out of it."

After enrolling early, he redshirted last year but went on every trip as the team's No. 3 QB behind Locker and Carl Bonnell.

Last winter, however, a couple of stories in a Redlands newspaper intimated that Fouch was unhappy, knowing he might be stuck behind Locker for a few more years, and looking to transfer.

Fouch said they were a plant from some local fans mad that a former high-school teammate, running back Chris Polk, was coming to UW after originally committing to USC.

"That was just people in Redlands trying to make Chris not come here, trying to make a story about me leaving so Chris could still go to USC," Fouch said. "Me and Chris, people love us in Redlands. They wanted us to be successful and wanted him to go to USC because he committed there and everyone was hyped up because he was really the first guy from our city to go to USC. They were upset about him decommitting."

On Monday, they worked together as UW's No. 1 backfield, a situation that may not stay permanent this year, but which figures to happen someday.

"I'm just preparing myself to play whenever my time comes," Fouch said. "I'm not really worried about anything else right now."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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