Spring Snippet #1

I had the chance to take in some spring football and I was very happy with what I saw, and somewhat surprised at the same time. I will provide my thoughts on what I saw, so take them for whatever you think they might be worth. Here is my first installment, and it deals with the quarterbacks.

I wrote before spring that I wholeheartedly felt that Nick Montana would secure the job by this time. Based on what I saw last year, which albeit was pretty limited, I felt that Montana's height and potential for growth both physically and technically would be too difficult for Keith Price to overcome.

I was wrong.

Not only was I wrong, I was ‘out like Pluto' wrong.

I did not undersell young Montana, not at all. I still feel his upside is great and his potential to grow into a fine quarterback is still very much there. I saw glimmers of it show through in the way that he looks to all of his targets, a trait that is normally not apparent in a second-year signal caller. He is adept at scanning the field, and he has good field presence.

However, what I was guilty of was underestimating Price's capacity to improve. He is a different player than I saw when he first arrived from St. John Bosco High School in Compton, California.

Price has that leader mentality in the huddle with his troops, and when they break and come to the line of scrimmage, he looks like he was shot out of a cannon. He LIGHTS UP. He cannot wait to execute the play that has been given him by Head Coach Steve Sarkisian. This is a young man who is very excited to lead the Huskies, and he looks confident in doing so.

The biggest difference since his arrival is his release. No longer is he the kid with the funky delivery. In early days, Price looked like the little lost kid who when he would turn and throw to a receiver, the ball would dip and the nose would drop before it arrived before it got to the receiver. That is a kiss of death, as any receiver will tell you that the most difficult ball to catch is the one where the nose is falling.

Price used to kind of deliver the ball out of a modified ‘Laredo' delivery, and the ball would not be spinning crisply as a result. It got there, but it was "hitchy" at best. A lot of work would be required to prevent him from falling into a Casey Paus like bad habit.

Mission accomplished.

Price now holds the ball higher, takes it up by his ear now, and when he follows through, you can see his wrist snap and fingers extend while his palm faces away from him.

That is a HUGE change. And the results are clear. Price now gets zip on the ball. When he turns, plants his feet, and fires an out to Jermaine Kearse, the ball travels 35-yards in the air across both hash marks and finds #15 with the nose of the football piercing his hands at chest level.

It is a DRAMATIC improvement, and one that is a big part of why Price won the job so handily this spring.

Coach Steve Sarkisian won't go on record and say this, but those that I've talked to that attended nearly every practice this spring confirmed to me that Price was consistently the better quarterback. The offense was crisper, it had better pacing in and out of huddles and getting into sets, and the ball went where it was supposed to go more often when #17 was lined up behind center.

This was no different than what I saw with my own eyes.

I admit, I didn't feel Price was up to it. And I also admit that I was dead wrong about him. He has clearly established himself as the man, and unless something unusual happens this fall, I fully expect him to remain in that spot when the season begins.

For those of you that wish to use my opine for something other than a critique of Price, stop right there. This is in no way a negative review of Montana's progress at all. I like where Montana is, and I like the progress he is making. He looks good behind center, and he is accurate for a good portion of the time. He can move the chains just fine.

What Price does better than Montana at this time is his decision making and his tight throws. Both can throw it fine against a cover-two where the receivers are running to open spots in the zone, however when it comes to getting the ball into a tight spot under man-coverage, Price is more adept. He gets the ball there quicker, which to be frank, surprised me.

The other big edge Price has at this point is that he brings an outside-the-pocket dimension that Montana (nor anyone else) doesn't to the offense. His ability to slip outside the pocket so quickly and effortlessly is downright scary. He will keep plays alive longer than they should probably be, and in those moments Husky receivers will need to mobilize and find open spaces for Price to throw to.

When Price tucks it and runs, look out. More often than not he can make the first guy miss. His hips swivel like a cornerback's, and if he gets to the second level of the defense, he will gash it for huge gains. Those are the types of plays that break a defense's will – when they feel they have the quarterback hemmed in, only to watch him escape and go for a long gain that moves the chains. How many times have you seen Darron Thomas for Oregon do that? Does LaMichael James become even tougher to defend with that threat lined up in front of him?

For those of you scoring at home, the answer is YES.

Price brings that same dimension. He will make Polk tougher to stop because you have to account for the quarterback. He tucks, slides, wiggles, bolts, and dashes up field, avoiding the big head-on hits. Most of the time he takes shots from the side, and those are much more tolerable to his slight frame.

Can Montana overcome the sizeable gap that Price has opened up between the two? I hope so. That would mean Washington would have two very talented quarterbacks capable of running the offense.

And they will need to both play. Price's game includes his running dimension, which is not only the reason why he has to be the guy, it also is the reason Montana needs to be ready to play. Price is going to take a lot of hits and they will add up. He only weighs 192 pounds, so he has a shelf life. Until he bulks up to about 205 or 210, expect him to require some plays off.

But all in all, I come out of spring much more comfortable with the quarterback position than I thought I would. This offense is going to feature #1 getting at least 20 carries per game, and with a tight end and fullback finally in the mix, a lot of high percentage throws. The quarterback's job will be much easier than Jake's job was. Every defense knew at the snap of the ball that if Jake had to throw, they only had to cover four guys because he was always going to throw to a wide receiver. That severely limited what the defense had to watch for.

In 2011, if he's not handing the ball to All-American Chris Polk the quarterback will be able to throw to either an experienced wide receiver, a tight end, or a fullback. And if the quarterback is a threat to tuck it and run for big yards, it makes it an even more attractive package.

Coming out of spring ball, it is clear to me that the offense is much more dangerous with Keith Price at the helm. He will have a young Marques Tuiasosopo quality in that he will make mistakes and sometimes will make you scratch your head, and then the next play he will tuck it and go 55-yards through the defense.

I have no doubt that he is the guy now. How long he remains that will be determined this fall, because there is no way Nick Montana will take this lying down.

Dawgman.com Top Stories