Freshman QB Price Honing His Skills

Nov. 5, 2009

With no game last week, much was made of the ability of a number of younger Huskies to get a little more action during practice. One of those was true freshman quarterback Keith Price. While Price has yet to play this year and, barring incident, will redshirt the season, his future is bright. correspondent Todd Dybas talked to Keith after practice the other day, during game-week preparations for this Saturday's contest at UCLA. Here's his report:

by Todd Dybas

'Keith! This isn't a country club!'

Freshman Keith Price was being summoned by a Huskies' coach. Next thing you know, Price, in his yellow quarterbacks' jersey, is trotting laps around the field at a midweek practice.

Washington's third-string freshman quarterback has spent the fall standing on the tracks trying to dodge the train running toward him.

He's dealing with making the social adjustments that come with being a freshman. The Compton, Calif., native is more than 1,000 miles from home, learning how to manage himself.

Price has to adjust to class, handling his social life, all the head-spinning wonder that comes to freshmen on college campuses.

Then there's the playbook. You've heard all that talk about coach Steve Sarkisian's pro-style offense? How advanced it is? How Jake Locker is still figuring it out midway through the season?

Well, Price is dealing with the same playbook without Locker's headstart or experience. When Sarkisian started installing his offense in spring ball, Locker and backup quarterback Ronnie Fouch slogged through, trying to get a feel for the nuances. Once fall arrived, those two had a base to work from. Not so for Price.

Price hit campus with the Huskies already moving onto Phase II of the offensive plan. He had to play catch up.

'We run a complex system here,' quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier said. 'It's challenging mentally and it takes time to pick it up. Keith gets here in the fall and we're throwing bigger amounts at him and more volume, and he's got to take it all in at once and it becomes overwhelming as it does for most freshman. Having had the system already installed, we're not going to slow down for a freshman player unless he was starting, then you have to curtail what you're doing.'

For Price, it's been a dizzying experience, though one he speaks fondly of.

'It's fun ... It's overwhelming,' Price said. 'It's different from what I expected. High school crowds don't get this big and this loud.

'It's been hectic. Schedules and tutoring out of practice and then when we come to the field, a lot more speed, a lot more talent ... it's not the same.'

Certainly not. As if Price wasn't going through enough adjustments, the Washington coaching staff began tinkering with the release point for the 6-foot-1, 184-pounder. About four weeks ago, Price began lowering his release point. For any quarterback, that's a scary proposition.

'I felt kind of funky like I wasn't throwing the same,' Price said. 'As we kept on working, working on my release after practice and on my own time, it became much easier and it's been much quicker and much more accurate.'

Nussmeier said the tricky part is taking what you learn in drills and translating that into game scenarios. The repetitions in drills will retrain Price's muscle memory, enabling him to be able to release the ball at the preferred point. His brain is also a big part of the equation when allowing the refinement of something that has been so effective for him in the past.

'It's not easy; it's not going to happen over night,' Nussmeier said. 'The biggest thing is they have to trust what they're doing.'

So, Price's adjustments will continue. He's yet to take a snap, giving him a good shot at redshirting should the staff choose to do that with him. It's something he said is not on his mind much, insisting whatever is best for the team is what he'll do.

In the meantime, he said he'll continue to practice as if he's the starter, working on footwork along with his new release point. He'll also spend time trying to run away from the Huskies' skilled linebacking corps. 'We have some of the best linebackers in the Pac-10 on our team, so you know it's always hard to get away from them,' Price said with a laugh.

That's one of Price's clear attributes, his ability to move and run with the ball. When Nussmeier considers if that is Price's best attribute, you can practically see the thought bubble over his head showing Price zipping around the field.

'Oh, I think he's a very, very talented kid. I really do,' Nussmeier said. 'Throws a nice ball, has great instinct. I think he's got a lot of potential.'

For freshmen, there's one constant all new to campus can turn to: the call home. Price chats up his mom and grandmother, who provide a consistent message: Hang in there.

'This is a crazy experience for me,' Price said. 'They just keep on encouraging me day in, day out.'

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