As noted in the earlier recap, it was a good day for UW QB Keith Price in today’s scrimmage at Memorial Stadium, as he completed 15-23 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns, without a turnover.
And afterward, he earned praise from UW coach Steve Sarkisian, who mentioned him first when asking who stood out.
“I thought Keith Price had a nice day today at quarterback,” Sarkisian said. “I thought he did some really nice things. I liked what Chris Polk brought running the ball. I thought Jermaine (Kearse) really showed up. I thought Will Shamburger showed a lot of courage in the back end, he really put his hat on people, and I think again, I don’t know for sure, but I think (Josh) Shirley had a couple more sacks — we’ll have to look at the film.”
Asked what he thought Price did well, Sarkisian said: “He threw the ball down the field well. I thought his pocket presence was good moving around in the pocket. And his command. I thought Nick did some nice things as well. But through it all I thought Keith showed some real pocket presence and then his ability to create with his feet and allow plays to develop even longer and then make some plays.”
Whether that means Price is in the lead for the QB battle with Nick Montana, however, Sarkisian won’t say, and he said again he’s not sure when he will make a decision on a quarterback.
“Again, when it feels right I’m going to do it,” he said. “I’m not putting a timeline on it. We’ll see where we’re at. I don’t know.”
But Price did little today to dissuade those who have surmised that he is ahead in the competition — aside from the stats shown above, he also did a nice job scrambling away from pressure, and minimizing the trouble when pressure comes (such as getting rid of the ball) something that could be more important next year with a young offensive line evolving.
Sarkisian said he wanted to try to see that aspect of Price’s game today, though that’s hard sometimes in the controlled scrimmage setting.
“I think Keith has a real unique style to his game to where he is not truly a runner, he’s just kind of slippery and he buys time and he steps up well,” Sarkisian said. “They both step up well, but he’s able to flush well and it’s challenging in these settings because the quarterback is not live and when to blow the whistle and when not to to see the guy’s game and what it’s all about. I tried today to allow him to play his game and there were arguably a couple of plays potentially that were hands, could he had been hit, could he have not. But through it all I wanted to see him play his game and that’s what it is. He’s got a real point-guard mentality when he plays.”
Montana, meanwhile, was 13-19 for 86 yards, and led one scoring drive. And Sarkisian said he’s happy with the progress of both, noting that the coaches threw some extra challenges their way today.
“Today was a real big step,” he said. “If you noticed, we kept all the coaches on the sideline, we signaled in the play, it’s not (offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier) or myself putting our arm around them telling them the play, it’s actually having to be on the field. So that will be a big emphasis for those two guys for the final three days of being on the field without all the coaches there and watching them continue to develop. So that will be another big step as well.”
IN OTHER NEWS. …
— Sarkisian said he liked the experiment of playing at Memorial Stadium and it could be a venue for the spring game in 2012: “I thought it was great. It was good for our kids to give them something new, a little bit different, to spice up spring football. I thought it was good for our fans to not have to be out on the sidelines sometimes as they are at Husky Stadium, they were able to sit in the stands, it was a beautiful day, I thought through it all we got a lot of work done.” He also said it helps to break up the spring: “Especially in spring practice, the way we do it, when you space it out over five weeks. It’s great because we get a lot of teaching done. But it can get a little bit monotonous there of just going against each other over and over and over and stretching it out. To do this, for the first time doing it you are always kind of ‘let’s see how it goes.’ But I think this is something we should look doing every year. And as we start looking at next year with the renovation of Husky Stadium it seems ideal for a spring game.”
— Johri Fogerson, as noted earlier, had a solid day. Said Sarkisian: “He had a couple runs today. … He popped a long one in a backed-up situation and then had another one down the other sidelines, so it was good to get Johri back going again as well.”
— Austin Seferian-Jenkins, rebounding from the illness that kept him out of Tuesday’s practice, had a nice 18-year grab in traffic, again showing the improvement the tight end spot should make in 2011.
— Sarkisian said that overall, the offense was better today than last Saturday: “”I think so. I thought that there was a little bit more rhythm to the offense today. I thought there were a couple of opportunities where they drove and maybe stalled out right there at the fringe and settled for some field goals. But through it all I liked the rhythm better. And excluding the late drive there weren’t just a lot of penalties knocking themselves back. When they were getting gains of five it wasn’t first and 15 because of a penalty but second and five, which is how the game should go.”
— I had the defense with six sacks, two by Talia Crichton, and one each by Josh Shirley, Hau’oli Jamora, Victor Burnett and John Timu. But the latter one was kind of a jailbreak and hard to tell from where I was exactly who got there first (and remember, sacks in these things are just touching the QB, they don’t tackle to the ground).
— Sarkisian said the leadership of the two QBs remains “a work in progress. That stuff comes with confidence as much as anything and as you get more comfortable being in there. It’s not always easy, it’s not always perfect because sometimes it’s the wrong personnel, the play call could be this or it could be that, guys are lining up wrong. So that command that it takes at the line of scrimmage and in the huddle is critical and is evaluated daily, and I think both of them have gotten better but there is still plenty of room to grow in that area.”
— Asked what he wants to get done in the last three practices of spring, Sarkisian said: “Going to assess that after looking at the film. I’m going to really try to find a few things to really, really focus in on what we need to get done, one of which is getting back to more of the up-tempo stuff we were doing earlier in the spring and revisiting that here. Really cleaning up all the nuances in the special teams game. We’ve spent a lot of time on it so I have a feeling that Thursday practice before the spring game will really be dedicated to a lot of special teams work, to just cleaning up the nuances of it because we’ve got some new guys in there doing it. Through it all there are plenty of things to work on it’s just a matter of picking exactly what it is so we have a real focus to what the next three days are going to be.”
— Asked if Garret Gilliland has won a starting LB spot, Sarkisian said the two positions other than Cort Dennison remain open until the fall: “This is going to go all the way into fall camp at that position as well. We’ve got some guys that are injured with (Princeton) Fuimaono, (Cooper) Pelluer at that spot, and then we’ve got (Thomas) Tutogi and Timu that this is just their first spring and they’ve just got 11 practices under their belt now, so that competition is going to go on for quite some time.”
— Speaking of Tutogi, Sarkisian confirmed he has been moved to MLB for now: “Yeah, we’re looking at him some at MIKE, at Cort’s spot. I think he’s really built for that. He’s a very compact guy, he plays excellent in the box and takes on blockers well, so we’re giving him that opportunity to learn that position in the second half of the spring as well.”
— As noted earlier, no injuries today, though Sarkisian pointed out how thin the OL is right now due to earlier injuries: “We’re a little thin up front with (Ben) Riva and Senio (Kelemete) out, but I thought the O-linemen did a nice job.
— Sarkisian said he isn’t sure if Riva, out with a sore foot, will be back this spring: “I don’t know. It’s concerning in the sense that I just don’t want it to worsen. He’s one of those guys, he needs summer conditioning as much as anything right now to continue transforming his body and I don’t want this thing to be lingering into summer conditioning to where he can’t work out to keep getting better. We’re going to assess it. He’s gotten some good rest time now so we’ll see where he’s at Tuesday.”
— As noted earlier, the Riva and Kelemete injuries leave UW with just 10 healthy OLs, so again some different line combinations out there.
— As Sarkisian noted, Will Shamburger — getting a lot of work at safety with Sean Parker and Taz Stevenson out — had some notable tackles, including what might have been the hit of the day when he slammed Devin Aguilar after a catch on a slant route.
— The first play of the game had Jermaine Kearse taking a reverse and being hit pretty immediately by a familar face — brother and linebacker Jamaal Kearse.
— Jesse Callier, out last week with a sprained ankle, returned and had some good plays, including a 22-yard catch off a screen pass from Price to set up a TD.
— There was no live special teams, but they did do some punting and kicking, and Will Mahan took a few kicks during that session. No surprises among the returners. Desmond Trufant, working as a second-team KO returner, broke one down the sideline for what would have been a long run. Justin Glenn also blocked a punt and returned it for a TD on a play in which the snap was low and the punt late getting off.
— UW is now off until Tuesday.