A few months ago, Keith Price was asked questions about his job security.
Now? Price’s passer rating of 186.1 is the best in the Pacific-12 Conference and ninth-best in the Football Bowl Subdivision. He’s helped the University of Washington compile 629 yards per game – third-most in the country – and the 3-0 Huskies are No. 16 in The Associated Press rankings.
“Now I’m back to the ‘Old Keith’ or whatever,” Price said.
That would be the Keith of 2011, the one who threw for 3,063 yards, 33 touchdowns and recorded a passer rating of 161.9.
Not the Keith of 2012 when he was saddled with the blame for much of the team’s shortcomings.
“Last year was a new experience for me. I’ve never had the finger pointed at me on so many different
occasions,” Price said. “A lot of times I deserved it. But that’s just the position I’m in. I knew I had a chip on my shoulder this offseason. I still do. I still want to be the best and I’m just trying to play like it day in and day out.”
Price said he spent much of his time in the offseason working on setting his feet better in the pocket. His base was often too wide last season and that led to inconsistent throws.
But the greatest change in Price’s play had nothing to do with him.
Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught 55 percent of UW’s pass completions last season. This season they’ve combined for 26 percent because the offense has more options. Sophomore Jaydon Mickens leads the team in receptions with 20 for 199 yards. Senior Kevin Smith has 11 catches for 201 yards.
And his offensive line? Last year Price was sacked 37 times in 13 games – about three per game. He’s been sacked three times in three games this season.
“At this point last year I was scratching my head and ready to grow gray hairs,” Price said. “Now it’s like I’m stress-free. My guys are playing well and I can focus on me. That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been able to focus on me and not focus on everyone else around me. It’s helped me tremendously.”
What hasn’t changed is Price’s commitment to preparation. His teammates and coaches say it is unmatched.
“His preparation is just tremendous,” Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said. “Nobody prepares better than that guy. He knows exactly what we’re doing and why we are doing it and he’s doing such a good job with his protections up front.”
Running back Bishop Sankey said Price is almost always the last to leave practice. It’s not a cliché, either.
Sankey remembers hanging out in Hec Edmundson Pavilion, well after football practice had ended.
“Then I saw him walking by and I was like, ‘Keith, where you coming from?’ And he was like, ‘Just watching some film,’ ” Sankey said. “It was late. Like late, late. We had been done with practice for a while and I wasn’t doing anything to do with football. He invests so much into this game.”
Addes Sankey: “He worked his butt off all offseason. You could tell, you could just see it in his eyes that he plays the game with a tremendous chip on his shoulder.”
Price is also playing the game with a lot more confidence. He has completed 77 percent of his passes with his lone interception coming on the first play of the season. If he continues his current pace – and if he were to throw the same number of passes this season as he did last season – Price will finish with 4,364 passing yards (he threw for 2,728 last year).
“I got a lot of the blame for things last year, which is understandable,” Price said. “I feel like I’m battle tested. I’ve been at the high of the high and I’ve been at the low of the lows. Just a couple months ago I was getting asked if I was going to get my job taken.
“Last year taught me so much. It’s taught me a lot about myself. It’s made me a better player and I’m a better player than I ever was right now.”TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677 firstname.lastname@example.org @Cotterill44