SEATTLE – Finding the Keith Price from two years ago, the quarterback who set records at Washington and was briefly tossed about as a Heisman candidate, is at the top of Steve Sarkisian’s spring agenda.
Doing so means helping Price regain his confidence that didn’t come so easily during a difficult junior season.
“I thought as we endured our struggles last year with this team we tried to manufacture the Keith Price of old,” Sarkisian said on Monday. “That’s not how it works. It’s developed through confidence, through belief where it exudes out of him and it’s not trying to be created superficially. I think from everything I’ve seen in offseason workouts to this point, that’s where we’re at. Now he has to go perform.”
Washington will begin its earliest spring practice under Sarkisian today.
At the top of the priorities, besides helping Price, is working on all of Washington’s passing game.
Last season, Price threw 19 touchdowns against 13 interceptions, was sacked 37 times and often played apprehensive and jumpy behind an unproven offensive line. The number of sacks allowed tied for sixth-most in the country.
It was part of a significant drop in Washington’s passing game from Price’s sophomore season when he played behind a more settled offensive line, with two experienced receivers and set a school record with 33 touchdown passes.
Everything during spring ball will be structured for Price, who has a glut of talented young quarterbacks behind him, led by Cyler Miles, Jeff Lindquist and early-enrollee Troy Williams. While getting time for the youngsters is important, getting Price back to top form is the priority.
During offseason conditioning, Price’s focus was on strengthening his lower body and his core in the hopes that he would be able to stay stronger in the pocket and not get taken down on so many one-armed tackles.
“He’s got real playmaking ability because of his unique ability to keep his vision downfield, which is what we’ve seen out of him,” Sarkisian said. “He lost some of that last year and I think partially that’s why some of our sack numbers went up and also why some of our big plays, our explosive plays in our offense, diminished, and that’s something we definitely need to get back.”
To help in finding some offensive rhythm, Sarkisian said there would be more no-huddle used in spring camp with a dual purpose. One is to help his quarterback, the other is to help Washington’s defense get a taste for what will be coming this fall against high-paced, spread-offense teams like Oregon and Arizona.