That extra pinch to study – to get better – comes in a few forms for Keith Price, who certainly is motivated this spring to emerge as the University of Washington’s leading candidate to back up Jake Locker at quarterback.
When Ronnie Fouch decided to transfer right after the 2009 season, the competition opened up between Price, a redshirt freshman, and newcomer Nick Montana, who made his UW practice debut Tuesday.
Montana is the headliner – the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana.
Price flies under the radar – and he’s OK with that.
“The (competition) is good. It’s pushing me. It’s forcing me to (study) the playbook longer, making me stay up later at night … before I go to sleep,” Price said. “It’s making sure I’m mentally ready for practice.”
It wasn’t as if Price arrived at UW last season with no credentials. At St. John Bosco High in Compton, Calif., he was ranked as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country.
Price flashed that ability as the Huskies’ scout-team passer most of fall camp. But he was a better runner than passer because his throwing mechanics were out of whack.
This offseason, Price has spent countless hours reviewing film with quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier, studying the gradual improvement of his passing motion.
“It’s just picking up my arm, throwing over the top instead of sidearm,” Price said. “(Nussmeier) has really improved my feet, improved my throwing motion.”
On some days, though, Price felt lost in the process.
“I was like, ‘Goodness’ when coach started changing my mechanics. We were watching film, going over it, but it just didn’t feel right coming out of my hands,” Price said. “Now the ball is spinning (correctly) … out of my hands. I’m throwing off the right fingers, and my release isn’t as high.”
On Tuesday, Price went through drills looking like a more refined, confident quarterback.
“The next step for Keith in this progression is a true belief in himself and a belief in the system of trusting what he’s seeing and delivering the football,” Sarkisian said. “Today … he probably pulled the ball down four or five times, and a good three or four of them, he could of spit it out and got a completion. But he’ll get better.”
Frankly, in many ways, Montana looked Tuesday like Price did last fall. The true freshman throws with zip and can make most of the passes but is far from being the consistent contributor Sarkisian needs from a No. 2 quarterback.
Yet, the second-year coach found positives in Montana’s first day of camp.
“I’m always nervous for guys in their first college practice. One of the things I’m most proud of was he didn’t fumble a snap. Most freshman quarterbacks, they fumble two, three or four snaps,” Sarkisian said. “Another thing … I loved his presence in the huddle. I loved his presence at the line of scrimmage. He was confident. Obviously he has an enormous amount of work to do, but I loved what he brought from a stature standpoint.”
Make no mistake, this is far from an optimum situation for Sarkisian and his staff. He’d prefer not only to have more than three quarterbacks practicing this spring, he also wishes he also had another veteran in the mix – somebody who’s at least thrown a pass or two in a college game.
“I think Ronnie (Fouch) harbored some mental and physical disappointments from the 2008 season, which was taxing on everybody involved,” Sarkisian said. “He feels like a fresh start to go play somewhere … is something he needed. I don’t blame him for that.”
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442
High school: Threw for 2,636 yards and 34 TDs as a senior, 2,404 yards and 33 TDs as a junior. RS freshman
High school: Threw for 2,260 yards and 24 TDs as a senior, also rushed for 579 yards and 10 TDs