Steve Sarkisian spoke for 40 minutes Monday afternoon, addressing the challenges the Washington Huskies face as they start spring football drills this afternoon. For at least half that time, he was questioned specifically about the manpower at one position. In other words, what will Life After Locker look like on Montlake?
With Jake Locker now prepping for the pros, Sarkisian has until September to decide whether sophomore Keith Price or redshirt freshman Nick Montana will open the season as the starting quarterback.
Prepare yourself for hourly updates, ceaseless speculation and constant comparisons in the media. And don’t count on it going away soon.
Of the many points Sarkisian touched on, perhaps the most important is that he’s going to take his time sorting out this important question. If it takes until game time, well, so be it.
“I’m not going to rush to judgment to name a starter for the sake of naming a starter, but I’m also not planning on going into the season platooning quarterbacks, either,” Sarkisian said.
“I could see it going into September. They’re both so young, their ceiling is so high, with so much room to grow, I don’t want to make a decision based on a couple practices.”
From moments after the Huskies validated claims of a revival with a Holiday Bowl upset of Nebraska, Sarkisian has faced questions about Locker’s heir.
“I’ve said all along we’re going to need both these two kids,” he said. “It’s not just about Keith Price or Nick Montana, we’re going to need both of them to perform at a high level.”
Price attempted 37 passes in relief of Locker last year; Montana watched, although he certainly received advanced tutorials from his dad, Joe.
So Sarkisian needs a great deal more evidence before entrusting his team to either of these young players. But he’s already been watching closely.
“Both of these guys have improved immensely in the short amount of time they’ve been here,” he said.
“They’re both over 3.0 (GPA) students, work extremely hard in the weight room; they’re both well-liked by teammates. They’re bright-eyed and smiling. I think they have a lot of the intangibles you want at the quarterback position.”
At least on the surface, the two competed last spring for the job of backup to Locker. That leaned in Price’s favor, as Montana was a brand-new Husky as an early-enrollment freshman.
Both had strong moments in spring drills, but it was Price who stepped in when Locker was banged up last season.
Does that give him an advantage heading into spring?
“It’s an advantage if he uses the experience,” Sarkisian said. “I think the battle is a little overhyped. They’re not against one another, they’re doing this together to make us a better football team.”
His advice, then, is that they focus on their duties and role, and not waste time worrying how the other guy is doing.
The points of evaluation that will determine the matter? Avoiding turnovers, moving the ball, and effectively managing the team.
Either of them might turn out to have certain skills that Locker did not, Sarkisian said, so “we’re going to tailor some (offensive) things to what they do well.”
They’ll both have chances to win the job and lose the job, to make mistakes and learn from them.
“We’re going to take our time,” Sarkisian said. “When we get there, we’ll make that call.”
Of goals and points of emphasis for spring, Sarkisian listed: Creating turnovers on defense and eliminating them on offense; improving the pass rush, special teams and drop-back passing game; becoming a more physical team.
To work toward the physical challenge, Sarkisian has scheduled practices for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The day off in-between, he said, will allow them to have more contact on practice days.
Sarkisian had a long list of players who would be out or limited in spring drills because of injuries and rehabilitation.
Offensive lineman Nick Wood (hip), cornerback Adam Long (knee) and defensive tackle Semisi Tokolahi (ankle) will be out.
Others who will be limited include CB Greg Ducre, S Taz Stevenson, LB Cooper Pelluer, LB Princeton Fuimaono, DE Talia Crichton, DT Chris Robinson, S Sean Parker, RB Deontae Cooper, T Senio Kelemete and P Will Mahan.
Sarkisian pointed out that the Huskies last quarter had the highest team GPA since he’s been there, but also acknowledged off-field behavior questions regarding Jordan Polk and Jorhi Fogerson. “We’re dealing with (those),” he said, “and I think we’re taking them head-on.” ...
Sarkisian said he was eager to see early-admit tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Gig Harbor), but understands the challenge he’s facing, going to his first class at UW on Monday and hitting the field for practice the first time this afternoon.
“He’s a very mature young man,” Sarkisian said. “But I’m not going to force the issue with him, either. We’re going to allow him to grow, but we’re going to throw him in there against the (first unit). We’ll see how far we can take him.”
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org