Now that spring is officially in the rearview mirror and the long off-season awaits, it’s time to take a revised look at each UW position group, which we’ll do over the next week or so.
We’ll start today with the quarterbacks, the spot that was billed as the battle royale heading into the spring and ended with some actual clarity when a few days after the spring, sophomore Keith Price (pictured during the spring in an AP photo above) was named as the starter ahead of redshirt freshman Nick Montana.
So, here’s how the depth chart looks ending the spring:
Keith Price, 6-1, 192, RSo.
Nick Montana, 6-3, 191, RFr.
NEWCOMERS ARRIVING IN THE FALL
Derrick Brown, 6-3, 239, Fr.
Antavius Sims, 6-2, 200, Jr.
Also on the roster are walk-ons Erik Wilson, a sophomore, and Thomas Vincent, a true freshman from King’s High School who graduated early from high school and participated in spring ball. Neither, however, took a snap during any of the spring scrimmages.
Obviously, the job is now Price’s to lose.
He entered the spring with a leg up due to his experience a year ago, and certainly didn’t cede any of that advantage and may have increased it just a bit. Price brings a greater running dimension than Montana, and in the spring showed good command of the offense and solid accuracy, capped off by his 20-28 performance in the spring game. He also generally made good decisions, evidenced by the lack of interceptions throughout the spring. The next step now, obviously, is to take that potential and turn it into consistent performance on the field. Price obviously showed some flashes last season (he ended the year 19-37 passing for 164 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a QB rating of 106.42).
The door isn’t completely closed on Montana winning the job in 2011, however, as UW coach Steve Sarkisian said he also improved during the spring. What seemed to separate Price from Montana during the spring was the experience and better accuracy and stronger arm. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Montana could close the gap in the fall — accuracy and getting more on the ball can each improve with experience as players feel more comfortable in the offense, react more quickly, make decisions and throw with more conviction.
More realistic, however, is that Montana shows improvement to push Price and make himself as ready as can be when opportunities inevitably arise. Talking about potential injuries can appear unseemly, but it’s also a fact of football life. Consider that W has had just one QB make every start in a season since 2005 — Jake Locker in 2009. And it’s happened just twice since 2003 (Locker in 2009 and Isaiah Stanback in 2005). So, odds are good that at some point, UW will need to call on its backup in 2011.
Even should Price stay upright all season, Montana would likely get a chance somewhere along the line (blowout or merely to get him in somewhere. All of which is why you’ve heard Sarkisian say often that they will need both of them to play this season. So, the announcement of Price as the starter for the moment far from closes the door on Montana. But it does bring some clarity to the position, which might be needed at the moment as the offense tries to establish an identity (especially in terms of leadership) in the post-Locker era.
Brown and Sims will arrive in the fall, though it may no longer be accurate to really consider Sims a QB. Sarkisian has talked of at least having Sims — who played QB at Ventura (Calif.) College the past two years — dabble in some situational stuff at quarterback. But he may be more needed for immediate help at his intended position of cornerback than was thought when he signed due to injuries and subsequent lack of depth at that position.
Brown will be given opportunities to show he can help immediately. But the best-case scenario for all involved will certainly be that he redshirt the 2011 season. Brown is also regarded as a college-caliber punting prospect, and while UW doesn’t appear to have any immediate needs there, could serve in an emergency function there.
UW enters the 2011 season with less starting experience at QB than any other Pac-12 team, and there’s nothing but getting on the field and playing that is going to solve that. The good news is the schedule offering home games to start the season against Eastern Washington and Hawaii before the Sept. 17 trip to Nebraska.
Given the lack of experience, the short-term prognosis for UW at quarterback remains, by any objective measure, is of a position that remains a work in progress.
But with Brown coming in this fall and the recent commitment of Mercer Island’s Jeff Lindquist for the Class of 2012, the long-term health at this spot appears strong.