Friday, April 30, 2010
Washington's Kearse leads Locker's deep receiving corps
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
Washington receiver Jermaine Kearse said he hasn't much noticed the "Jake Locker-Jake Locker-Jake Locker Syndrome" that has infected the national media.
Much of that is due to Locker himself.
Jermaine Kearse caught 50 passes for 866 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
"You don't really notice it that much because Jake is real down-to-earth person," Kearse said. "He's not cocky. He doesn't flaunt it in any way."
Locker may be a Heisman Trophy candidate and he may be the top pick in the 2011 NFL draft, but here's a guess that his secret weapon also will gain significant exposure next fall: Perhaps the Pac-10's best receiving corps.
All of Locker's targets are back in 2010. That includes five players who caught at least 25 passes and two who ranked among the Pac-10 leaders -- Kearse and Devin Aguilar. A third, James Johnson, was the best freshman receiver in the conference.
Kearse, however, was the top Dawg. He earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors and ranked fourth in the conference with 866 receiving yards -- the seventh-best total in school history -- and his eight touchdowns tied for second. His 17.3 yards per reception ranked first.
While Kearse had two clutch receptions during the winning drive of the USC upset, the fact is, after a mediocre fall camp, he started slowly in 2009. He didn't really become productive until the fifth game at Notre Dame -- eight receptions, 94 yards and a TD -- but in the final four games he caught six touchdown passes. In the season finale, a dominant win over California, he hauled in seven passes for 147 yards and a touchdown.
That run suggests bigger things may be ahead for the 6-foot-2, 198-pound junior. It should help that secondaries won't be able to gang up on him because of the deep supporting cast around him.
While Kearse sprained his foot and won't play in the Huskies spring game tonight -- yes, it's Friday Night Lights -- he feels good about how things went this spring.
"I focused on yards-after-catch -- that's been my emphasis the whole spring," he said. "I think I got better at that."
Oh, and as for that Locker guy, he's doing OK, too.
"He's a lot more accurate," Kearse said. "His confidence is building up. He's become more of a leader. He's just getting better. Everyone knows how good he is."
Like many of his teammates, Kearse seems bored by questions about the contrast between the spring following the 2008 season -- a new coach coming aboard after a humiliating 0-12 finish -- and this spring, after they went 5-7 and lost four games by eight or fewer points and became comfortable coach Steve Sarkisian, his staff and their schemes.
"It's not that much different," he said.
What is clear, however, is that, with 20 starters back, expectations are exponentially higher. And so is the confidence.