Spring First Half Review - QB's

With the Washington Huskies taking a break before starting the second half of their spring campaign, it makes sense to go back to talk about what took place during the first six practices. When you practice against your own team it's hard to glean any significant insight, but there's no question who will be leading the UW offense into their opening game versus Boise State. His name is Keith Price.

Bringing Price Back To His Best: "Keith Price is our starting quarterback," UW Head Coach Steve Sarkisian said the day before spring practice began two weeks ago. "The goal is to get Keith Price back to playing the way he was two years ago. And to do that we all have to do our jobs to make that happen."

By the end of the first half of spring, Sark was talking about the 6-foot-1, 202-pound senior in glowing terms, calling his last practice 'tremendous'. "It was a very competitive (no huddle) drill and he was at his best," Sarkisian said.

What Has Price Done To Restore Confidence?: "One of the big keys is the football aspect of it and taking care of the football the way that I know he is capable of doing it," Sarkisian said right before spring's first practice when asked what he needed to see from his co-captain to know that he's back to his old self. "Another is his mobility. We have made it a point here for the last two months to really focus on the strength and explosiveness of his legs because when he can move in the pocket - not necessarily always outside of the pocket - but when he can move in the pocket to avoid those one-arm sacks where a guy grabs him, to avoid those sacks and those hits, he has got real playmaking ability because of his unique ability to keep his vision down the field, which is what we have seen out of him. He lost some of that last year and I think partially that's why our sack numbers went up. That's also why some of our big plays and the explosiveness in our offense diminished some. So that's something we definitely need to get back.

"And then ultimately Keith playing the game of football the way he is capable of playing it with the smile, the flair, the competitive nature that is natural to him. Not something that can be manufactured. I thought as we endured some of our struggles last year as a team we tried to manufacture the Keith Price of old and that's not how it works. It's developed through confidence, through belief, to where it exudes out of him and it's not trying to be created superficially. And I think from everything I have seen in the off-season workouts up to this point, that's where we are at."

The jury is clearly still in as to whether or not Price is back to his 2011 best, but he has shown improved mobility - especially now that he doesn't have to wear a brace on his right knee. "Oh man, it's been great," Price said. "I'm running around for the first time without a brace on them, so it feels sorta weird, but it's much less restrictive too. I'm having a lot of fun out here. The pressure is on for us, but I'm not putting it all on me. I'm getting the ball out quickly and getting it to the guys and they are making plays. It's been a fun six practices so far."

More Reps Means More Opportunities: "I really wanted to make it hard on the guys the first two weeks and I think we've done that," Sarkisian said about spring football in general for the team. "We've been working at a pretty frantic pace. We're running quite a few more plays. This time last year we were averaging roughly 75-80 plays a practice; this time we're at 130-135 plays a practice in a shorter amount of time. So we're taxing them pretty well but the end result is that they've responded. And that's what I was hoping would happen."

There Is A Plan In Place For the Quarterbacks: "There are four guys behind (Price) that are going to be chomping at the bit to get every opportunity they get to make this thing into a competition that either is going to push Keith to become a better player than he has been or ultimately try to surpass him," Sarkisian said right before spring about how the staff would adjudicate the position battle behind Price. "So there is a real balancing act in place. There will be nothing done off the cut -'hey you go, now you go' - everything is going to be detailed and written out so that we know exactly how many reps each young man is getting whether it's with the ones or the twos, so that they get enough opportunities to show what they are about and then opportunities to then maybe make up for some of the mistakes that they make early."

How Has That Plan Worked Out Through The First Half of Spring?: "I thought Troy Williams had two pretty good practices the last two practices," Sarkisian said of the true freshman who enrolled mid-year to specifically get a head start on his UW career. "For a true freshman from Day One and working his way and then working his way to practices five and six - I thought he was impressive. I thought Cyler (Miles) flashed at some times. But for all of them, like any young quarterback, is finding the consistency and doing things right consistently at a high level. And that's where those guys get in trouble and that's what we'll continue to work on."

Miles Making Moves?: Miles, the 6-foot-4, 223-pound freshman from Denver, already signaled his intentions last season when he beat out fellow frosh Jeff Lindquist to earn the No. 3 quarterback spot behind Price and Brown. And when the number-two offense came out in UW's first practice of the spring it was Miles who took the snaps over Brown. That's been a pretty consistent theme this spring for Miles, who has gotten his fair share of reps during the first six practices to show how far he's come since the fall. Clearly the coaches are intrigued with his size, decision-making ability in the passing game and his athleticism with the ball in his hands.

Could Williams Be Ready Now?: Williams, who was considered by many to be the top prep quarterback coming out of California for the 2013 recruiting class, has been a quick study so far this spring. He arguably already has the biggest arm of all the quarterbacks. While physically Williams doesn't appear that far out of his depth he's clearly swimming in all the terminology and the speed of the no-huddle offense thrown at him by Sark and company. But the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Williams is a winner and also a quick study given the positive comments made by Sarkisian about his work heading into the mid-spring break.

The Mysterious Disappearance of Derrick Brown: Speaking of Brown, the 6-foot-2, 245-pound sophomore who was Price's backup in 2012 has gone quiet. During the first week of spring he seemed to be getting plenty of reps with Sark and new Quarterbacks Coach Marques Tuiasosopo paying close attention. But during practices five and six, with Williams coming on strong - Brown seemed to literally disappear. Number six was there in person in full pads and seemingly ready to go but I never saw him get one meaningful rep. Again, Sark mentioned how they have a plan for the quarterbacks to make sure they all get 'enough opportunities', but Brown's absence from the field, especially during the team periods, was an interesting twist to the QB battle as the Huskies head to their mid-spring break.

The 'Tui' Factor: With production from the quarterback position at a premium this year, the introduction of Tuiasosopo to the coaching mix kills a few concerns heading into the 2013 season. First, he is very aware of Sarkisian and his offensive system, having already worked closely with Sark in 2009 and 2010 before being hired away by UCLA. Secondly, as arguably Washington's greatest quarterback of all-time, Tuiasosopo not only has a vested interest in his alma mater but he also knows what it takes to play quarterback at the highest levels of the conference, leading the Huskies to a 2001 Rose Bowl win over Purdue.

"He's a lot like Nuss(meier) was in that he's really up in your face about things, but not so much in a way that is bad," Price said when asked about the 'Tui' Effect. "Coach (Eric) Keisau is more laid back which is good in its own way, but I think I probably learn better with a more in-your-face type. Coach Tui was here when I was learning under Nuss and that's something I think he understands...that I learn with a more in-your-face guy."

Can Tui Unleash Lindquist?: When looking for a quarterback on the roster that most embodies Tui as a college player, it has to be Jeff Lindquist. at 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds, Lindquist can run and pass with equal skill and he's a tough, rugged competitor like Tuiasosopo was at UW. The redshirt frosh needs to take another step up in his development, and one would expect Tui to identify with Lindquist's skill set and ability. The former Mercer Island star has fit right in with the current quarterback battle, displaying a nice touch getting the football to the right receivers, while also showing he still has the wheels that will ultimately earn him comparisons with not only Tui but also Jake Locker from a running standpoint.

Halftime Depth Chart: Obviously this is a very unofficial one, but here's what it looks like to me so far:

Keith Price, 6-1, 202, Sr.
Cyler Miles, 6-4, 223, RFr.
Jeff Lindquist, 6-3, 234, RFr. OR
Troy Williams, 6-2, 205, Fr.
Derrick Brown, 6-2, 245 So.

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