Spring Report: Price is a Special Player

SEATTLE - It's been exciting to follow the Huskies this spring and considering they are only in week two and have only completed five practices, it might be a little early to start singing praise for anyone but I'm blown away by the performance of Husky quarterback Keith Price.

So much is new that everyone forgets what is old. With the loss of Colin Porter as well as the graduation of four pretty good players, the Husky offense looked like it could be in a rebuilding mode - but hold your horses! Because they still have an excellent player taking the snaps.

Now I admit I've only seen three of the five practices, but I can't remember a Husky quarterback looking this comfortable and confident in the offense since Marques Tuiasosopo returned for his senior year. Price has been super so far this spring and that speaks well for the Huskies who are facing their hardest early league schedule in decades (the Dawgs start Pac-12 play with Stanford, Oregon, and USC in that order).

Price is making all the throws and is doing so in the pocket or out. He is totally in charge and is having way too much fun because right now he is simply the best player on the team. He might be the best player in the conference, and because he's a quarterback that's good for the Huskies.

His smile is infectious. His attitude rubs off on everyone. His leadership ability matches his performance ability. He has had some moments this spring when I couldn't believe his ball placement. I was watching one practice with Damon Huard, who I respect tremendously for his knowledge of the position, and he was just as amazed as I was. Keith's knowledge of the offense and some recent upgrades to the receiver corps have made his passing the best it's been since he arrived four years ago as part of Steve Sarkisian's first recruiting class.

Price came in with a class of only 16 players in the fall of 2009. He had originally committed to Tyrone Willingham but had been recruited by Sarkisian when he was coaching at USC. Coach Sark must have sensed something back then because when this skinny kid out of Compton showed up at UW he was nothing like he is today.

I remember making a note on my roster that first spring two years ago. "Undeveloped, but sure to be the starter after Jake (Locker)". Little did I know he was going to be as accurate or as bright as he appears to be. He is clearly the best early spring quarterback I've seen in years. Why? Because he understands the system and knows his targets. Believe me, those guys are also getting better. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Kasen Williams, and James Johnson are all having solid springs. With the addition of two other veterans in Cody Bruns and Kevin Smith (who will be back in the fall after rehabbing a knee injury suffered prepping for the Alamo Bowl), along with two gifted red-shirted freshmen in Jamaal Jones and Joshua Perkins, the Huskies will be able to offset the loss of Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar to graduation.

Throw in greyshirt freshman Marvin Hall, who is nothing short of electric, and two more giant tight ends from Bothell in Michael Hartvigson and Evan Hudson, and Price has more than enough targets to throw to.

It remains to be seen what Price's durability level will be like after suffering through a tough 2011 in that regard, but he is really a special player right now and it just happens to be at the most critical position in the game. His sense of anticipation and overall confidence is obvious every day, and he simply loves to practice.

Everyone knows he broke the school record for touchdown passes last year and his completion percentage was also the best ever. What many people don't know is that Keith completed 71.5 percent of his passes his senior year of high school, so don't be surprised if he averages over 70 percent next fall. He showed an uncanny ability to find open receivers in the red-zone last year and should be even better this coming season considering that his top two receivers are that much older and wiser than they were as true freshmen last year.

There have been lots of kids jump out in these early spring practices, but make no mistake the best player at every practice has been Keith Price. He has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches and maybe with enough wins and a healthy junior year he will finally get recognized as the great player he really is.

Looking back, he is one of the last members of his signing class; three did not get into school, four washed out, and two have already graduated. That leaves Keith and six others from that class: Talia Crichton, Nathan Fellner, Will Shamburger, Desmond Trufant, Semisi Tokolahi, and James Johnson. That's a small number, but all seven are in the depth and Price is clearly the offensive leader of the team along with Johnson and senior center Drew Schaefer.

Price will give Sark the ability to really open the playbook because he has such a command of the offense. His legs are already better and by next fall they should be even better yet. His mobility had always been his strength but now it's his accuracy because his injuries last year forced him to win with his arm instead of his wheels.

There remains only the question of his durability and how well he can take the hits when they start coming for real in the games. His timing will help him there, and his quick release should also be factored in but right now he is really special and belongs in the conversation with the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12, including Matt Barkley.

Regardless of the difficulty of the early conference schedule, Price gives Washington a chance to beat anyone in the league. He's that good right now. But then again, he is also going against his own team and in a controlled environment, so it's still too early to tell. I could care less; this kid is really playing well right now so it really gets down to how well the offensive line can protect him. Give him some time and he'll find the open guy and get him the ball.

I think Keith Price breaks his own touchdown record next fall. We'll see.


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