Carroll calls Locker 'the best'

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers is one of a kind. When he shows up in the interview room, coaches and athletes start to sweat and look for the exit -- even a guy who often enjoys verbal duels, such as USC coach Pete Carroll.

Simer's column about Carroll, USC and the disappearance of No. 3 QB Mitch Mustain is interesting in itself.

But this quote from Carroll about Washington quarterback Jake Locker caught my eye:

"That's the best quarterback we've played in nine years here," Carroll said when told Washington has beaten only Idaho and USC the last two years. " Jake Locker has ridiculous talent, and had he remained healthy last year, Tyrone [Willingham] would still be coaching there."

Er, Vince Young? Aaron Rodgers? Dennis Dixon?

Still, Carroll doesn't sling around such high praise for opposing players after a game that often.

Locker is presently 20th in the nation in total offense with 288 yards per game. He's thrown more passes this year -- 105 [Edit note: This total was changed from 63, the number of completions Locker has] -- than any other Pac-10 quarterback but he has only one interception with five touchdowns.

Carroll's quote and the early numbers raise a question.

If Washington, a team that just two over weeks ago was riding a 15-game losing streak, keeps winning, and Locker keeps putting up impressive numbers, how much longer until he becomes a Heisman Trophy candidate?

There's also been chatter of late that Locker might be playing his way into being a high pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Chris Mortensen tweeted that Locker and Sam Bradford are in a "real competition" to be the No. 1 quarterback in next year's draft.

If he opts to return for his senior year, he'd almost certainly be among the top-five preseason candidates for the 2010 Heisman Trophy.

A year ago vs. Stanford, Locker busted up his thumb, which ended his season, and he thereafter watched as his already-fired coach and the Huskies go on a college football version of the Bataan Death March. He was miserable.

Now, with a date at Stanford on Saturday, he's a high-profile baseball prospect under contract with the L.A. Angels and he's being touted as an elite NFL prospect.

And the Huskies are nationally ranked.

Sometimes life gives you lemons. And then it hands you a plate of shrimp and oysters to go with the lemons.