Here's a roster analysis for the quarterback position. With fall camp winding down, I will do one for all the position groups.
Starters: Keith Price, 6-1, 195 pounds, Jr.
Second-team: Derrick Brown, 6-3, 230, redshirt freshman/Cyler Miles, 6-4, 218, freshman
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The rest: Jeff Lindquist, 6-3, 234, true freshman; Thomas Vincent, 6-0, 197, redshirt freshman (walk-on), Erik Wilson, 6-0, 194, junior (walk-on).
Strengths: Obviously, Price is the strength of the position group. Besides Matt Barkley, there isn’t a more accomplished quarterback in the Pac-12. He set school records for touchdown passes (33), completion percentage (a ridiculous 66.9 percent) and passer efficiency rating (161.09). He threw for 3,063 yards (second most in school history). He threw for more than 200 yards nine times. And of course, there was the Alamo Bowl where he completed 23-of-37 for 438 yards and four touchdowns, running for an additional three TDs. The seven TDs Price was responsible for were an NCAA record for a bowl game, as were he 42 points responsible for ... 438 passing yards were second-most in UW single-game history.
He did all of those things, while playing through severe sprains on each knee and a banged up left shoulder. He was rarely healthy for any one game last season and took an awful beating. But he looks bigger and stronger this season. He added some muscle to help withstand some of the pounding. There is little question who the leader on the field is with this Huskies team. This is Price’s team. No one questions it.
Weaknesses: The lack of experience is the major factor. No quarterback after Price has taken a live snap in a college game. Nick Montana’s decision to transfer to a junior college has left the Huskies with a redshirt freshman, two true freshmen and a couple of walk-ons as the depth at the position. The lack of any sort of game experience is an issue. Even Montana, before his only start at Oregon State, got some snaps last season. Ideally, UW would like to get Brown or Miles some snaps at the end of the season opener against San Diego State – score permitting. Because they travel to LSU and its high-powered vicious defense the next week, the need for Price’s back-up to be somewhat prepared seems logical.
Fall camp thoughts: It's tough to think the Price could improve from last year, but he has managed to do that. One of the biggest things he's worked on is understanding when a play is dead and just firing the ball away. Price has the innate ability and superior athleticism to keep plays alive, but sometimes it works to his disadvantage. How? By putting him in position to get drilled by defensive players.
Well, Sarkisian wants to see Price get rid of the ball before something like that happens. We've seen him do that this spring. Admittedly, it's difficult for Price. It's how he's always played. It's how he had success. And Sarkisian doesn't want to take that away from him.
Sarkisian believes if they can drill it into Price now on the conservative side, it will at least be there in the back of Price's mind during the season.
"I think what naturally happens, innately in the games he’s gonna revert back to his old self," Sarkisian said. "So I’m being a bit more conservative in practice to just try to give him those reminders that will hopefully click in during gameday. Because on gameday, you play the game of football the way you know how to play it. Keith has the ability to extend plays, we all know that we saw it for a season last year. He also had some plays where he tried to extend too long and it put us in some tough positions. He took some big hits from it. Those things take their toll over time. And we’re just trying to minimize those hits.”
Sarkisian has said the back-up spot was a competition between Brown, Miles and Lindquist. But it appears Lindquist has fallen out of the mix. He’s looked a little shaky in live situations, and the indecisiveness has shown in some wobbly passes and hesitancy and bad decisions. He will likely redshirt this season. Miles has been impressive at times. He has a poise in the pocket and shown a fearlessness to make tough throws. His athleticism is evident and his ability to improvise with pass rush in his face has been benefitted him. Of course, there are moments when he looks overwhelmed like any true freshman would in his first fall camp.
Brown was really inconsistent during spring practices when he took almost all of the second team snaps. For every good moment, there were two or three frustrating moments. He has plenty of arm strength. But passes outside the hashmarks were an issue. He just didn’t seem to have the touch or the anticipation to make the throws on out routes and sideline go routes. He didn’t have nearly as much problems making throws over the middle. In fact, he looked very comfortable on those throws.
This fall he’s been more consistent on a day-to-day basis. Those throws outside of the hashmarks have improved – though they’re still something that he needs to get much better at. It’s clear he seems to have a better grasp of the offense. He knows what he’s supposed to do the moment the play is called and what he’s supposed to do. It means he’s not thinking about it at the line of scrimmage. Instead, he reads his keys, reacts and makes the play.
So who is winning the battle between Brown and Miles? It’s a tough call. Right now, if something were to happen to Price in a game, Brown would likely be the best candidate to step in and perform for a series, a quarter or even a game. He has a better grasp of the offense and the personnel. But if it was worst-case scenario and Price missed an extended period of time, and there was a long range need for the back-up, then Miles might be more suited. In the long run, Miles ability to make plays might give the better opportunity to win, whereas Brown might be the better fix in a shorterm situation.
Sarkisian said on Monday, that he may not officially announce a back-up quarterback. Technically, he doesn’t have to name one.
“I don’t know if I’m going to make one for you guys," he said. "I kind of don’t have to, not to be a jerk about it, part of that is for our team and game planning, and strategy wise, but I thought Derrick is improving like the other 2 kids as well.”
My guess is that he hopes to redshirt Miles if possible, but won’t hesitate to burn the redshirt if necessary. Realistically, Miles looks like the future at quarterback for Washington. But the future isn’t right now.