Washington’s first practice of 2011 training camp on a sun-splashed day was also the first for the Huskies with a named starting quarterback other than Jake Locker in more than four years.
When UW finished up spring drills in April, the quarterback job was officially open between redshirt sophomore Keith Price and redshirt freshman Nick Montana. Shortly after the spring, UW coach Steve Sarkisian named Price the starter.
Monday was the first practice since, and also the first time either of the combatants spoke to the media.
“I was excited,” Price said of being named the starter. “But still, I know I have a long way to go. We still have thre to four weeks until the season, so I’m just going to keep on getting better. … I’m still pushing. Anything could happen from now until the end of camp, so I still see it as competition.”
So does Montana, the son of Hall of Famer Joe, who along with wife, Jennifer, watched practice Monday.
“I still have the same approach,” said Montana, who was a heralded member of Sarkisian’s first full recruiting class at UW. “I’m still coming out and competing every day. Shoot, in my mind I still have a chance, so you never know what can happen. I’m just playing. Keith did a great job and is obviously a great quarterback, so I’m just trying to push myself and him every day.”
Before practice, Sarkisian said at a season-opening news conference that Price would get roughly two-thirds of the snaps with the starting unit throughout camp and Montana roughly one-third — a typical starter-to-backup ratio.
But while Price is the listed starter, Sarkisian said he doesn’t rule out that Montana could emerge as the guy “if he plays really well — that’s the reality of it. And we’ll give him opportunities to do that. I don’t want people to think and Nick to think he’s going out to practice for the sake of practicing. He’s competing. If Keith doesn’t perform well and Nick does and it shows itself and lends itself that way, that could easily happen.”
Montana said he wasn’t disappointed to hear the news, saying “I wasn’t really paying attention to that. I was just going out and playing and whatever happens, happens.”
What he has paid attention to is increasing his weight and strength. Montana said he weighed about 190 pounds when he first enrolled at UW in spring 2010 but is now up to “206ish.” He’s officially listed at 203.
“I’m just stronger and smoother,” he said. “It’s a lot better.”
Sarkisian singled out the play of Montana after UW’s two-hour non-pads workout at Husky Stadium.
“I thought he had a great day, threw the ball well and made plays,” Sarkisian said. He said naming Price as the starter is “fuel to the fire” for Montana, and that Montana has reacted as the coach would have hoped.
For now, though, Price is the starter, and Sarkisian said he carried himself as if he’s the leader of the team during practice Monday.
“”I thought Keith missed a couple of throws but that didn’t ruin his day,” Sarkisian said. “What I was impressed with is when a guy feels he is really competing for the job, those plays can sometimes harbor and affect the rest of your practice. He made some other plays and did some good things, so I think that is the mentality you get when you feel like you are the starter. That this one play isn’t going to make or break my career so you can move on from it.”
Price, who has also been attempting to get a little sturdier, said he weighs 195 pounds. He also spent part of his summer getting tutoring from a pretty good source — former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who worked out with other NFL players at UW during the lockout.
“I threw with him a lot this summer,” Price said, saying the main thing he learned was “precision and just being accurate and on-time. That’s a big deal in the NFL and still at this level he was just teaching me certain footwork just to better myself.”