Coach's Corner

Now that the Jake Locker era is officially over, isn't it best to move on and name his successor as soon as possible? Coaches prefer having good quarterback competition, but not having a quarterback controversy. Considering how close the competition is though between Keith Price and Nick Montana, I will be real surprised to see a starter named until the finish of fall camp.

The position is way too important to make a hasty decision, and it is just too close to call. Right now it's hard to tell who that starter might be.

Obviously, Keith Price has the inside track simply because he is the only one on the team with any playing experience. Price and Montana should have an interesting battle this spring, and I would anticipate the competition will be really close.

Of course either player could simply light it up in the spring and cement himself as the front runner for the opener, but as of right now I wouldn't count out the incoming signees either.

Both the incoming freshman, Derrick Brown, and the junior college transfer, Antavius Sims, are much bigger and more physical looking than either Price or Montana. Sims, in particular, might be the most impressive looking athlete to be signed in this last class. I realize he was a late addition, and hardly anyone had him on their recruiting radar, but to me he is the most intriguing player the Huskies signed in February.

Neither of the newcomers has the understanding, experience, or background in Steve Sarkisian's system, but both appear to have special qualities that just might put them in the mix.

Sims looks to be a perfect compliment to Chris Polk when emphasizing the run game. He is already as old and certainly as well-traveled as any of the others. His two years at the junior college level have no doubt helped develop him at the position, but the fact that they are talking to him as a cornerback too leads me to believe he will be given more than a serious look at quarterback. They wouldn't be doing that if he wasn't a serious athlete.

Both Sims and Brown are excellent runners, each gaining over 1,000 yards rushing this past year.

Sims rushed for 1,014 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns while Brown rushed for 1,037 yards and 19 touchdowns. On did it at the high school level and the other at the JC level, but any time a quarterback can pull it down or run it on a called run for that kind of yardage makes them a legitimate two-way threat.

I think the coaches will wait until fall so they can add these two players to the overall evaluation before deciding on who will lead this team.

By way of comparison, Price rushed for 579 yards in high school, and Montana was rarely asked to run, but did lead his team to a 29-1 record as a starting quarterback. If Washington decides to crank up its read-option game and make it a bigger part of the offense then I would guess that one (or both) of the new kids on the block will be in the mix. Remember that both Auburn and Oregon ran that offense in the big game, and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert comes out of a shot-gun system.

Based upon what we've watched in practices and his lone full game against Oregon, you would have to think Price is in a good position right now simply because he has been in the system the longest. To be asked to start against a team that went on to play in the national championship game showed that he wasn't afraid of the big stage. And it was on the road too!

That's not to imply that Montana can't overtake him this spring. There will be a premium on who makes the most plays, and who makes the least mistakes. Believe me, they will be keeping track of interceptions and fumbles at the quarterback position.

You would have to guess that both players will be scheduled to get equal reps working with the starting offense. That will give them the same line protection and continuity with the starting receivers.

It would really be surprising to see either player distance himself from the other, because they appear almost identical in size and overall physical strength. It appears that Price has a little better feet and Montana has a little better delivery. Price showed up with a quirky-looking delivery in the first place, but has worked really hard to get the nose up on the ball and has made noticeable improvement throwing the ball since he arrived.

Montana appeared more polished when he arrived, but both quarterbacks needed to red-shirt for physical development.

Both have always looked comfortable and confident in the huddle, but have also appeared to be shaky at times in their practice decisions.

I actually think Montana has a little bigger frame and seems to have really worked hard lifting and conditioning.

Price was really slight when he arrived on campus (I would guess in the 175 pound range) and likewise has added significant weight to his frame. He certainly showed some nifty moves against the Ducks, and at times in practice has looked quicker than any quarterback we have had at Washington in decades, including Jake Locker and Isaiah Stanback. Maybe not as fast, but he certainly showed quick feet against Oregon, and that should give him extra time to pass or make the decision to run it for a first down.

Interestingly, Montana was rated by one recruiting service as the No. 22 quarterback in the nation coming out of high school, while Derrick Brown was rated No. 21. Brown was rated by another as the No. 22 dual-threat quarterback, so these two obviously came into the program well thought of as prospects. Price was also rated as the No. 33 dual-threat when he came out three years ago, so he's always been considered a good runner.

Nobody has to be reminded of who Nick Montana's father is, but it is obvious that Nick has earned his own way. He came to Washington on his own merit, and intends to win the job based upon his own performance. He proved he could lead a good high school football team to a championship and has shown the talent and smarts to develop into a good college quarterback who can lead his college team to a championship.

Of all four scholarship quarterbacks, none of the others appear to be the physical specimen that Sims is, and it should be noted that he played both football and basketball at Ventura College, so he will get a definite look based on his athletic ability as much as his quarterback skills. It would not be surprising to see Sims as a Wildcat quarterback if he doesn't end up playing defense.

With both starters returning on the corner, I could see Sims getting an equal look at quarterback. But the knee injury to Adam Long just might push him toward cornerback in the fall if Long isn't able to go once the season starts. There just isn't enough depth to assume Sims would automatically play offense the moment he steps on campus.

Desmond Trufant had somewhat of a sophomore slump at times last season, but I'm positive Tru will rebound this coming year. Quinton Richardson may have been the most improved player in the entire secondary. With Greg Ducre showing promise as a true freshman, as well as the potential of incoming frosh Marcus Peters, the Dawgs just might be able to give Sims a serious look at quarterback. But it won't be a given.

That is precisely why I think the decision on quarterback won't be made until the end of fall camp and might not even be decided until the start of conference play against California at the end of September. There is no rush to name one guy when the competition will only make everyone better.

Price and Montana have both paid their dues red-shirting, and both got to travel and understand the mechanics of preparation. Both benefited from being on the team with Jake Locker and learning from his preparation and team leadership.

Brown jumped to the Huskies from Utah after watching them prepare for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in San Diego. He is huge compared to any of the quarterbacks. He could report to fall camp weighing in the 230's, and is easily the tallest quarterback Washington has. If they become more of a running team because of Chris Polk, he could handle a designed package that would give them a bigger running option at quarterback. If he picks things up and shows he can handle it, then he will be included in the discussion for playing time. Sarkisian is bringing him in with the idea that he should be prepared to play if they need him.

Believe me, every throw of spring ball will be taped, analyzed, and compiled, so that whoever emerges as the starter will have earned the right, and the coaches will be able to document their decision with video.

As of now, you have to think that the competition is all even, except in the area of experience. Both Price and Montana have to feel they will be given equal opportunity this spring to prove they are the best choice, but they also know an injury could change everything.

That is precisely why the quarterback position needed to have depth, just like every other spot. Having two really close competitors in Price and Montana is a good thing. Having four competitors is an even better thing.

Sims still has some academic issues to deal with simply because he is a junior college transfer, and will need to have credits that he can apply toward a degree program at Washington. He is on schedule to arrive for fall camp, and you would have to think he is one of the most interesting additions to this team.

You just get the feeling that a kid from Georgia who ends up in California playing football and basketball out of high school, and then decides at the last minute to come to Seattle might just have something special in his game.

All of this makes the quarterback decision at Washington totally undecided. The competition will be good this spring and doubly good come the fall, which is precisely why the actual starter won't be announced until the week before the Eastern Washington game.

That's the Eastern Washington Eagles, the FCS National Champions, so don't be surprised to see Washington give two quarterbacks a try in that opening game.


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