LOS ANGELES (AP) - Long before Jake Locker signed his letter of intent to attend Washington, Pete Carroll was at his doorstep.
The Southern California coach came away empty-handed, but remains very impressed by the Huskies' young quarterback.
``We got started on him early,'' Carroll said Tuesday at his weekly meeting with reporters. ``We found him in the springtime and we were interested in getting after it, but he really decided early that he was going to stay in the state.''
Locker, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder from Ferndale, Wash., has passed for 704 yards and six touchdowns with six interceptions and rushed for 361 yards and three TDs in the first four games of his college career.
``The quarterback has just lit it up for a redshirt freshman - as good a first showing, first four or five games, as a guy could have,'' Carroll said. ``They know they have a great one in this kid. He's not a normal freshman out there playing.''
There won't be anything normal about the defense Locker faces Saturday, when No. 1 USC (3-0, 1-0 Pac-10) travels to face the Huskies (2-2, 0-1) in Seattle.
The Trojans did an excellent job defending a pair of experienced quarterbacks in their last two games, with Nebraska's Sam Keller and Washington State's Alex Brink both under pressure almost every time they looked to throw.
USC led the Cornhuskers 49-17 before Keller passed for two meaningless touchdowns to make the final score respectable, and the Trojans thoroughly dominated the Cougars, limiting Brink to 165 yards through the air in a 47-14 triumph last weekend.
Neither was the running threat that Locker has been, but the Huskies haven't seen a front seven nearly as fast or talented as USC's so far.
``He poses a lot of problems, and I'm having trouble seeing anything else when I'm looking at them,'' Carroll said. ``We're going to everything we can to slow him down and keep him from being the factor that controls the football game. I think he's that good.''
If Carroll believes he'll have problems with the Huskies' offense, he should be grateful he doesn't have to worry about containing his team with a Washington defense that's given up 77 points in its last two games. The Trojans are averaging 44.7 points and don't even appear to be playing their best, yet.
``We're still a very young offensive football team that's trying to figure things out,'' USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said. ``Outside of the quarterback (John David Booty) and the left tackle (Sam Baker), we're still a very young offensive team.
``In our thinking, there are some missed opportunities in all of those games. There's definitely room to improve for this group.''
Carroll said he's pleased with his team's overall progress.
``We're having a lot of fun playing with these guys and coaching them,'' he said. ``They're loving the spirit of the game. They're really, really pumped up and playing at a high level. I think we're just growing and finding out what we can do and what we need to do to be really effective.''
USC might be without two injured starters on defense - cornerback Cary Harris dislocated his right shoulder against Washington State, and linebacker Brian Cushing has a sprained ankle.
``Don't count Cary Harris out. He will not accept the fact that he's hurt,'' Carroll said. ``By the end of the week, he may come back. This kid is tough and he's going to battle go get back out there.''
Carroll said sophomore Shareece Wright will start if Harris can't go.
Regarding Cushing, Carroll said: ``He was pretty hobbled yesterday. It's going to be a long shot for him to get back this week. But he, like Cary, is not going to accept that and he's going to try to fight his way back out there.''
Carroll realizes a wet field is possible whenever a game is playing at Husky Stadium.
``We're going to turn on the sprinklers probably one day in practice this week just to make sure we're ready for it. I'm sure Tyrone is looking for rain,'' he said, referring to Washington coach Tyrone Willingham.
Carroll was correct.
``That's on order,'' Willingham said on a conference call when asked about the possibility of rain.

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