Price's Potential Legacy

I've been thinking a lot about UW football lately, you know, since I cover it and go to the school.  Usually my thoughts aren't very deep or poignant.  I think a lot about things like ‘Who could eat more - Danny Shelton or Alameda Ta'Amu?', or ‘How close is Nick Holt to actually committing a murder?', or ‘Are we completely sure Austin Seferian-Jenkins doesn't have a forged birth certificate?'

But ever since the Huskies' dominant first quarter performance against Hawaii last weekend, I can't stop thinking about their offense.  Their weapons are staggering: Running back Chris Polk is a punishing workhorse with breakaway speed, and is one of the top-5 backs in the nation; wide receiver Jermaine Kearse has proven to be deadly; Devin Aguilar and James Johnson are very solid; Kevin Smith is on a path toward stardom; Kasen Williams is one of the most highly-touted freshmen in the conference, not to mention freshman tight-end Seferian-Jenkins, who looked unbelievable against the Warriors and is a legit threat deep down the middle of the field and in the red zone. He is improving with each practice, every game.

Combine that arsenal with some solid offensive line play so far, and you have the makings of an explosive offense.

Wait, what?  I forgot to mention the quarterback?  That's the most important position on the team, you say?  Oh yeah, that guy - the one who's always smiling.  Well, he's the one that has taken up most of my thinking about UW football. And I think, by the end of his career, Keith Price will have had a more successful tenure as Washington Husky quarterback than his predecessor and Dawg-like diety - 'Montlake' Jake Locker.  

Sacrilegious to say, I know.  Probably a bit premature.  After all, Price has started just three games in college. But there are many factors which lead me to make such a proclamation.  

Not to be discounted is the coaching that Price has received while in college.  Steve Sarkisian and Doug Nussmeier are certainly an improvement over whatever coaching (and I use that term ever-so-loosely) Locker received during the Ty Willingham era.   The team around Price is also certainly deeper and more talented than Locker ever had.

But mostly, I feel like Keith Price is just a better quarterback than Locker.  Not pro prospect.  Not athlete.  But a player more equipped to handle all the duties that go into playing the position at the college level.

You see, even given the enormity of Locker's physical gifts, his mind was never quite on the same plane.  From his redshirt freshman season to his senior year, there were questions about his decision-making and accuracy.  Pro scouts worried about his ability to read defenses.  We're talking about a guy whose completion percentage his final season – and, importantly, second under the guidance of Sarkisian – was 55.4 percent.  It was 54 percent for his career.  Price has completed just over 62 percent of his total passes, and that number includes a difficult debut at Oregon.  It's a small sample size of only 87 attempts, but still..Locker completed over 62 percent of his passes in just seven of his 40 starts at Washington.

Also, questions about Price's ability to read defenses, react and make the correct decision have only been asked because he's a sophomore.  Sarkisian, who has seen him in practice every day for three years now, doesn't really share those concerns.  After Saturday's game, he complemented Keith's decision making.

  "I think he can be as good as he wants to be," Sarkisian said of Price. "He has all the game. For me, with Keith – I've always known that. Sometimes as the general public, it's hard to see that because the kid is only doing it in practice, or he's only had one or two starts, and he has the ability to do that. He understands our offense extremely well. By those two things, he anticipates throws really, really well, and knows where the ball should be going the majority of the time. It's not easy to be right all the time as a quarterback. I thought he was spot-on 85 percent of the time with where the ball should be going.

"I thought all in all – reading coverages, going to the right man, audibilizing plays at the line of scrimmage – I thought his decision-making was great."

When Sark waxed poetic about Locker, it usually focused on his physical tools, competitiveness, leadership ability, and his improvement working within the coaches' new offensive philosophy - not necessarily his mental aptitude.  Price appears to have all of it, just in different amounts. He demonstrated his clutch ability and mental toughness with the touchdown he threw on his second ever collegiate pass attempt in a 2010 game at USC. Locker was shaken up, and Price was thrown in there with the Huskies driving. He came in with no warm up or warning and met the challenge with his signature smile and evident poise, finding Chris Izbicki in the Trojans' end zone to give UW a 29-28 lead. Those points were crucial in the Huskies' eventual upset.

While he leads in a different manner than Locker did, Price has been equally as effective. He has the benefit of three years in Sark's system; it's the only style of offense he knows. And he's taken advantage of it.  

Devin Aguilar was effusive in his praise of Price's leadership in the huddle. "You know, when you have the guy, the general on the field, the quarterback, leading the tempo, trying to get everyone out there, get them going it does great," Aguilar said.  "It's like a second coach on the field.  He's got such a bright personality, and he's just a jovial personality that you just makes everyone just want to move around.  And he's always got that smile on his face so it just brightens everything up, no matter what the situation."

Price is only a redshirt sophomore.  He's going to get better.  He's going to pile up the stats.  He will struggle, but he'll learn from his mistakes.  And he will lead this team to many more wins, and a few bowl appearances too. That's what I've been thinking about.

He might not be the guy responsible for turning the Washington football program around; that goes to players like Locker, who stayed for a fifth season and helped bring a bowl victory back to Seattle. His role in the history of UW football can never be understated.  

But if Keith Price stays healthy – the biggest question mark given his slight, 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame – I believe he will be the guy who takes the Dawgs to places Locker only hinted at. He's going to bring Washington back to prominence.


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