Oct 22, 2011; Seattle, WA, USA; Oregon State Beavers wide receiver Markus Wheaton (2) dives forward while getting tackled by Washington State Cougars safety Casey Locker (22) during the 1st half at Centurylink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Casey Locker returns for his 5th season as a Cougar, as one of the still few upperclassmen on the defense. Locker has been a physical presence in the WSU secondary when he could get his pads on people. He’s also made a few plays on the ball along the way. Here’s a snapshot of his 2012 by WSU Athletics:
"RS-JUNIOR (2012):Earned a varsity letter after startting all 10 games appeared in…made 60 tackles, tied for fifth-most on team…made 1.5 tackles-for-loss, one interception and recovered one fumble…did not play in first two games, started final 10…made five tackles, all solo, including one for loss in win at UNLV…matched a career high with 10 tackles, seven solo, and recovered one fumble against Colorado…made four tackles against No. Oregon in Seattle…made seven tackles, six solo and intercepted a pass at No. 14 Oregon State…matched a career high with 10 tackles against California…made seven tackles at Utah, six against No. 17 UCLA and five at Arizona State…tallied four tackles in Apple Cup victory over Washington."
Casey has been known for some bone crushing hits over his career (see picture above) and generally they draw the yellow flags (even when they’re seemingly legal). This season it’s going to be interesting to see if he can keep himself in the game, as some new NCAA rules are implemented that threaten to attempt to change his style of play. Most notably of course is the ejection for head-to-head contact to a defenseless player, which is often determined to be the case by the on-field officials when Locker is involved in the collision.
Regardless of all that, Locker brings a veteran leadership to the secondary and solid tackling ability that is hard to ignore. He has consistently found his way onto the field and tends to stay on once inserted for his physical presence. I tend to think the Cougars have more athleticism back ther this season, which would in theory make it more difficult for Casey because he struggles mightily in pass coverage assignments. But you can never count out experience on a defense with an extremely young front-7.
I don’t think he matches his production from a season ago because I see him in a limited role, but he will be in games in run situations and can make plays in the short passing game which still gives him tremendous value. In fact it might make him even more valuable if he’s focused primarily on in-the-box play in these situations. Especially relevant there is an avoidance of deep pass situations over the middle where Locker instinctively and repeatedly punishes opposing receivers, which should lessen the penalties from the defensive backfield.