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Washington Spring Preview 2014: Quarterbacks

In the first installment of our series, we look ahead to the 2014 Husky Spring Practices and assess the situation at QB - who returns, who is the front-runner and what should we expect to see?

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

2013 Review:

Quarterback was a position of some concern heading into the 2013 season; Keith Price had burst on to the scene in 2011, replacing Jake Locker and having one of the best Sophomore seasons in Husky QB history, but he slumped in 2012 leaving many questioning which was the "real" KP.  The move to a HUNH offensive philosophy and a much-improved receiving corps was just what the doctor ordered, and Price rebounded to post a terrific final campaign for Washington.

What we said heading into the season:

There's every reason to believe he'll have a 2011 type of year.  In 2011, he had a less than dominant offensive line (but they gave him just enough time), a few receivers that could get open (Kearse, Aguilar, ASJ, and James Johnson when healthy), and a running back to keep defenses honest.  This season, he has that and more.

2013 Statistics:

  • Keith Price:  233-352 (66.2%), 2,966 yards (8.4 ypa), 21 TD, 6 INT (153.25 rating); 82 rushes, 108 yards (1.3 ypa), 5 TD
  • Cyler Miles:  37-61 (60.7%), 418 yards (6.9 ypa), 4 TD, 2 INT (133.30 rating); 23 rushes, 200 yards (8.7 ypa), 0 TD

Scholarship Players:

Players lost: Keith Price (graduated)

Players returning: Cyler Miles (RS-So), Jeff Lindquist (RS-So), Troy Williams (RS-Fr)

Incoming players: K.J. Carta-Samuels (Fr)

A Look Ahead:

Kirk DeGrasse:

Losing a 3-year starter at QB is always a tough proposition, and this year it's made more complicated by the uncertainty surrounding Miles and his indefinite suspension.  Though Miles was expected to enter Spring as the #1 QB, this figured to be a terrific battle - especially with a new coaching staff in place.  Now, it's hard to know what to expect.  Miles has the edge in experience and brings accuracy and great wheels to the mix, but only if he can play.  If his suspension lasts through the Spring and he misses out on those reps, can he catch-up if/when he does return?  Lindquist might be an even better runner and has a very strong arm, but has struggled with the speed of the game; with a new staff and perhaps a new offense, it could mean anything from him taking a big leap forward to falling even further behind.  This could be a make-or-break year for him at Washington.  Williams impressed observers in camp last year and might throw the tightest spiral on the team, and was expected to provide a strong challenge to Miles.  KJCS has the physical tools, but comes from a run-heavy offense and will almost certainly benefit from a redshirt year to learn the nuances of the position.

If Miles is reinstated in time for Spring Practices, I would expect he's the front runner to emerge as the #1 QB, though with a stiff challenge from Williams.  Lindquist certainly has the tools to challenge too, but he has to prove he can let the game slow down for him mentally.  The related storyline to who finishes Spring Practices atop the depth chart is whether any of those lower on the depth chart decide to transfer - with all four scholarship QB's former 4-star recruits with Elite 11 camp experience, and none with less than 3 years of eligibility remaining - it wouldn't surprise to see one (or more) opt to look elsewhere for more playing time.

Chris Landon:

Brace yourselves, Husky fans.  I realize that many amongst you are "not that concerned" by the graduation of Keith Price given the influx of talented players behind him.  Once upon a time, I was like you.  The joke I cracked in the game thread during KP's first start at Oregon about how I was able to go outside to grab a beer while an out-pass he was throwing was still in the air continues to haunt me.  Price leaves UW with 20 more TD passes thrown than any other UW QB and #2 on the all-time yardage list.  He will go down as the most efficient QB in UW history as his 6 INTs in 2013 is a new Husky record for any QB with a minimum of 250 passes thrown in a season.  Impressive.  All of it.  But, what you'll miss most as we go into next season is Price's ability to turn red zone visits into TDs.  Many Husky fans don't realize it, but the Huskies converted a ridiculous 75.1% of red zone trips into TDs in 2013.  That was by far the best in the Pac 12 and #4 among major conference schools behind Ohio State, Georgia Tech and some school called Florida State.

While the talent behind Keith Price may be brighter, we are watching a whole lot of elite-level production walk out the door.

The good news is that the candidates to replace him all have physical differentiators that could, to a degree, compensate for Keith's smarts, his feel for the game and his control of the offense.  Those of you reading this don't need me to detail all of those differences - they've been well covered by the daily beat writers.  Cyler Miles, Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams are all serious candidates to vie for the starting job and the three-way battle in the spring promises to be the most delicious QB competition that we've seen in Montlake since the early nineties.  There is no good way to handicap the race as we don't know what the judges' scorecards are going to emphasize just yet.  Expect a head-spinning competition that more-than-likely leads to the transfer out of one combatant before the fall.

Brad Johnson:

First of all, I get the feeling that a lot of Husky fans don't realize how high Keith Price has set the bar for the next University of Washington QB.  The more games a guy starts, the more the fans are going to rag on him.  We watched it with Price, with Jake Locker, with Cody Pickett, both Huards....even Marques Tuiasosopo wasn't immune to it.  Familiarity breeds contempt, as they say.  And lots of people have said here that we won't truly appreciate Keith Price until he's gone.  Now he's gone, so we'll see if that's true.  Regardless, a tip of the hat to one of the most efficient and productive QB's in Husky history.

It's really impossible to handicap the QB competition right now, because there are simply too many moving parts.  Not only a new head coach, but an offensive coordinator that's new to him as well.  And one without an extensive body of work that we can use to predict what the offense is going to look like in 2014.  Add in a presumptive starter with question marks surrounding him, both off and on the field.  Ignoring the off-the-field stuff for now, you can definitely count me as one that thinks his throwing motion is going to hurt him down the road.  He has fantastic anticipation as a passer - as good as anyone we've seen at the UW in a while - but if he isn't able to use his legs to escape pressure, the disjointedness between his upper and lower body is going to make a ball that already lacks velocity look like a couple of the ducks he threw in the second half of the UCLA game.  Maybe the new staff refines his mechanics (doubtful at this stage).  Maybe they (and we) all learn to live with what he is as a passer.  And that's really not that bad.  Maybe he's not even on the team.

I suppose we all have to accept that Lindquist struggled with the playbook last year, as we don't have any other real information about him.  That worries me a little, as the playbook was supposedly trimmed significantly from prior years under Sarkisian (that doesn't mean it still wasn't exhaustive, though).  It isn't uncommon for a young QB to take a little while to pick up the speed of the game, but the longer a guy goes without things "clicking," the less likely it is that it'll ever happen.  Physically, Lindquist has everything at the QB position.  Maybe a new coach is the impetus to put it all together, and maybe a 3rd new offense in 3 years puts him even further behind.

Troy Williams has the "it" factor as a QB.  He's one of those guys that doesn't wow you with his size, or strength, or speed, but will amaze you as he effortlessly flips the ball 35 yards down field on a rope, or spins out of the pocket to buy more time or pick up the easy 15 yards on a scramble.  The ball jumps out of his hand like he's throwing paper airplanes.  It's tough to know how he'll do in picking up the offense.  If he can, he's as legitimate a threat to simply take the starting job as anyone else on the roster.

I can't wait for spring to see how this unfolds.