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Originally published April 10, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 23, 2007 at 9:01 PM

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Sun, Locker, shine on Dawgs

Maybe those were simply the winds of change whipping through Husky Stadium on Monday, at one point picking up some loose pages from a practice...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Maybe those were simply the winds of change whipping through Husky Stadium on Monday, at one point picking up some loose pages from a practice plan and lifting them in the direction of Lake Washington.

Because the first spring practice of 2007 for the Washington Huskies also served as the unofficial beginning of the Jake Locker era, the much-heralded quarterback from Ferndale who is finally off redshirt status.

He was tabbed as the team's No. 1 quarterback heading into drills in a news conference last Thursday, then took the reps with the starting unit in Monday's no-pads workout.

"I'm excited to see what he's going to do," said senior linebacker Dan Howell. "To see how he develops."

Locker, though, wasn't in much of a celebratory mood afterward, lamenting a few poor throws, including one that was picked off by linebacker E.J. Savannah.

"My overall goal is to be the number one guy when we get out of here," Locker said. "But the way I performed today, I've got to do better. I'm not worthy of that after how I played today, so I plan on going out the next couple of days and proving that I can be that guy."

UW coach Tyrone Willingham, however, thought Locker proved more than enough.

"It's clear he knows a lot more about the offense now than he did a year ago," Willingham said, adding that the several weeks late last season in the wake of the injury to Isaiah Stanback when Locker prepared as if he might play helped speed up his grasp of the playbook.

Locker also possesses some unique natural abilities that have excited UW fans since the day he committed in summer 2005. And those were on full display when he ran 77 yards for a touchdown on a simple read-option play in 11-on-11 drills.

There was no contact allowed in the practice, but no one would have gotten close enough to Locker to make a tackle if there had been as he outran the defense after sweeping around the end, then cutting back across the field.

"He's got wheels," marveled Howell.

And despite his dour assessment of his throwing, Locker put more than a few on the money, rebounding a couple plays after the interception to hit Marcel Reece from the near hash mark to the far sideline during a seven-on-seven drill.

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Still, he mused that "I need to be more consistent and make my reads a little bit quicker."

Otherwise, it was a day of optimism as the Huskies began the third full season under Willingham, hoping to set a course for the program's first winning season and bowl game since 2002.

While the winds gusted, the sun shined throughout.

"The things that I'm looking for the first day are energy and effort and I thought that those two things were in place," said Willingham.

Particularly from Howell, whose bounding around the field would have put Richard Simmons to shame.

"It feels good to be back hitting and moving," he said. "We just want to let him [Willingham] know that we are going to go fast and go hard all the time."

With Locker having already ascended to the top of the quarterback depth chart, there aren't a lot of high-profile position battles, though some could emerge when the freshmen arrive in the fall.

In what could be one of the most hotly contested battles, Casey Bulyca ran ahead of Ryan Tolar at right guard in the competition to succeed Clay Walker.

The Huskies will practice without pads again today before getting into full pads later in the week. UW will conclude the spring with the annual Purple-White game April 28.

Notes

• There were no new injuries, and all of the players expected to participate did so. Only a few players were limited with minor ailments, most notably backup left tackle Eric Berglund, who sat out a few drills with a hamstring injury.

• Backup QB Carl Bonnell, still recovering from off-season surgery to his left (non-throwing) shoulder, took part in all the drills. However, he could be limited once the team puts on full pads. Bonnell said he has lost some weight off his listed 210 pounds in part because he wasn't able to do as much weightlifting due to the surgery.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com. Read his blogs on Washington football and basketball at www.seattletimes.com/huskies.

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