SEATTLE – Some might consider it a surprise, but one of the strongest supporters of Jake Locker’s decision to shun the NFL and return as Washington’s starting quarterback was a player who probably had the most to gain by Locker’s departure: Reserve quarterback Keith Price.
But Price, a redshirt freshman, knew he had a lot more to learn from Locker before he felt ready for the job.
“I’m glad he’s back,” Price said after Wednesday’s practice. “It gave me another year to develop. He’s like a big brother to me.”
Price is getting more comfortable with the notion of taking snaps for real as UW’s quarterback, as he took over the first-unit offense while Locker was strategically rested during practice.
Coach Steve Sarkisian liked what he saw.
“What I appreciated and liked about it, as hostile an environment as we could make it, (for him) to drive them down and score a touchdown showed me a lot about his mental toughness ... to be able to hang in there and execute the offense at a critical moment of practice,” Sarkisian said.
But he would not officially name Price the No. 2 quarterback, as freshman Nick Montana is still a consideration.
Sarkisian said a decision will be made soon but it might not be accompanied by a public announcement.
At 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, Price is 40 pounds lighter than Locker, but his arm strength is impressive. In Wednesday’s practice, he fired a perfectly placed deep ball to Cody Bruns for a touchdown during a team session.
“He’s had a really good camp,” said Doug Nussmeier, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. “He’s continued to improve, and he’s done a nice job when we put him in live drills with the (starters).”
Nussmeier stressed there’s more to the position than passing the ball, and it takes time to learn the complexities of the system.
“With a young quarterback, the learning curve is steep,” Nussmeier said. “He’s done a really nice job of continuing to progress within the system. The biggest thing is understanding what we’re trying to accomplish with the plays we call and then to execute them.”
Although Price said he’s more comfortable this camp, and confident in his duties, playing with the first unit brought some pressures.
“It was fun, really up-tempo, but there were a couple calls I messed up on,” Price said. “A lot of those guys are older than me, and I didn’t want to disappoint them.
“I’m just trying to do my part and do my best.”
Sarkisian went through his list of injury concerns after practice, and although there were a number of players to mention, the severity of the injuries, generally, was not too worrisome. “The beauty of it is we’re not dealing with pulled hamstrings or quads, things that could take months,” Sarkisian said. “We’re dealing with twists and strains that I think can be healed up by next week.” … Linebacker Cort Dennison (knee sprain) is getting eased back into action. “We wanted to move him around but not overdo it,” Sarkisian said. … Tackle Senio Kelemete (ankle) remains a concern because he’s not able to take every snap of practice. … Receiver James Johnson (ankle) “is a real concern of mine,” Sarkisian said. “He hasn’t practiced in almost two weeks.”