The Talent Evolution: Quarterbacks


During 2008, Jake Locker was a redshirt sophomore with considerable promise.  The other two quarterbacks, redshirt freshmen Ronnie Fouch and Taylor Bean, were relative unknowns; true freshman QB recruit Dominique Blackman didn’t make it into school.  After Locker, the depth was thin.  Time has flown.  How has Washington’s quarterback depth evolved?  What’s the immediate future going to bring?

Jake Locker is gone.  There will be a drop-off at the QB position.  But how much of a drop-off?  How good is Keith Price?  He had a completion rate of over 70% in high school, runs very well and, as a field general, did not look like someone playing college ball for the first time last season when he replaced an injured Locker against powerhouse Oregon.  Based on his spring performance, it would seem Price has the job.  In football, however, as Bob Schloredt and Sonny Sixkiller demonstrated years ago, nothing is for certain.

When Jake Heaps chose BYU, although his choice should not have been a surprise, many Washington fans indulged in wishful thinking and were predictably disappointed.  The next week, however, the disappointment evaporated in thin air when Nick Montana committed and, although Washington lost the local guy, the elation over Montana was appreciable.

A four-star QB from an excellent high school program, and with a pretty decent mentor, Montana was considered a very good fit for the Sarkisian/Nussmeier offense.  Montana’s high school defeated Heaps’ high school during the 2009 season, and that seemed a good omen.  Montana’s ability to enroll early for 2010 spring ball did not hurt expectations.  During 2010 spring ball, Jake Locker was the QB, and Keith Price proved good enough to be Locker’s backup, allowing Montana to redshirt in preparation for the 2011 season.

Fast-forward to 2011 spring ball.  Keith Price played well enough during the spring to get the QB nod even though, going into spring practice, the coaches did not expect to name a leader, anticipating the QB competition would be neck-and-neck well into fall camp.  Price’s ability to get the nod speaks highly of his talent behind center.

Nick Montana did not do badly, however, and while Price leads the competition, the starter against Eastern Washington is effectively still undecided.  The difference in quarterback depth between 2008 and 2011 is very apparent.  Whereas in 2008, if the starter, Locker, was injured (as he was), there would be a sizable drop-off, in 2011, it’s a much different situation.  If Price is the starter and he is injured, there is no guarantee that he will be the starter when he is again healthy.  Two very successful Washington QBs in the past, Bob Schloredt and Sonny Sixkiller, were back-ups until the starter in front of them was hurt.  After having the opportunity to prove themselves, they never looked back.

Fall practices will determine who starts against Eastern.  While good teams practice the way they intend to play (smash-mouth, early Owens-era teammates considered Saturday afternoons something of a break from one another), practices and games are still different situations.  No one knows what the future will bring.  With certainty, however, Montana will be breathing down Price’s neck when fall camp starts and, depending on the unforeseeable, although it seems unlikely at the moment, as was the case with Schloredt, Sixkiller and Billy Joe Hobert, the job ultimately could still be Montana’s.

For the past several years, Washington has effectively had one QB.  Granted, Jake Locker was a very good QB but when he went down in 2008, the results were decidedly un-Washington (Ronnie Fouch averaged 167 yards passing per game, with four touchdowns and 13 interceptions).  Presently, Washington fans are relieved to see competition between two good quarterbacks.  While Jake Locker is gone and there will be a drop-off in ability behind center, Price and Montana, both talented, are engaged in an intense competition for the starting position, a situation which will continually make both of them better.  Neither player is Jake Locker but, at this stage of development, neither was Jake Locker.  Both Montana and Price have something to prove.  Both have the benefit of being coached by Doug Nussmeier (there are three NCAA quarterbacks who have thrown for over 10,000 yards and rushed for over 1,000 yards during their collegiate careers: Duante Culpepper, Steve McNair and Doug Nussmeier) and Steve Sarkisian.  Together with improved offensive line play (a future The Husky Haul article), the results should be telling for both Price and Montana.

Video of newcomer Derrick Brown shows a big kid who is raw but who is athletic, versatile and determined, and who makes plays.  He will redshirt and go to school under Nussmeier and Sarkisian, a quarterback coaching tandem probably unrivaled anywhere else in college football.

On the horizon are Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles, both of whom are very talented.  Both should redshirt and attend the same quarterback school as Derrick Brown.

In contrast to the lack of quality depth in 2008, Washington’s quarterback situation is much more favorably aligned in 2011.  Washington has gone from Locker with weak back-up in the event of an injury, to a situation where if the starter wants to remain the starter, he’d better not get injured.  Washington is not quite where it wants to be in 2011 but at the start of the 2012 season, with expected improved play from Price and Montana, a season of schooling for Brown, and the introduction of Lindquist and Miles, Washington quarterback depth should be the best it has ever been.