By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — There are two certainties surrounding the quarterback position for the Washington Huskies.
The first is that Keith Price is the starting quarterback without question. The second is that if Price were to get hurt, the Huskies will most definitely be in trouble.
Well, Price’s backup will have not have taken a snap at the collegiate level.
With Nick Montana leaving UW in search of a fresh start and a chance to play, the Huskies are left with redshirt freshman Derrick Brown, true freshmen Cyler Miles and Jeff Lindquist and walk-ons Thomas Vincent and Erik Wilson.
The competition started this fall between Brown, Miles and Lindquist. And of late it appears that Lindquist has fallen from the race. The touted Mercer Island standout has been plagued by moments of indecision.
That leaves Brown and Miles to battle it out.
For a while, it seemed as the competition was fairly even. When Brown would struggle, Miles’ athleticism and ability to make plays seemed to stand out. When Miles would make freshmen mistakes and seem lost, Brown’s experience within the offense seemed to stand out.
“It’s a competition, but we all help each other,” Brown said. “We all push each other. We are all trying to work as hard as possible so we can get on the field one day.”
Sarkisian isn’t letting on who’s winning the backup QB battle and he might not officially announce who it is even when he decides.
“I don’t know if I’m going to make one for you guys,” Sarkisian said. “I kind of don’t have to, not to be a jerk about it, part of that is for our team and game planning, and strategy wise, but I thought Derrick is improving like the other two kids as well.”
Brown has had flashes where it seems like he should be the logical choice. He looks nothing like the scared 18-year-old that struggled last season.
“I’m a lot more confident now,” he said. “Last year, I was the new guy and I was pretty timid.”
There are times when he doesn’t quite get the offense in and out of the huddle and to the line of scrimmage at the high-tempo pace that Sarkisian wants. But his grasp of the offense is evident.
“You have to go in there and make the huddle yours,” Brown said. “I’m way more comfortable. Last year, I was just running plays for myself. This year I know the plays and I can tell people where to go.”
Brown has shown he can make plays. On Monday, he hit Cody Bruns on a deep pass which led to a 70-plus yard touchdown.
“I see some real flashes of ‘wow, this guy’s got a chance to be a real player,’” Sarkisian said of Brown. “And then I see some plays that tell me he’s not quite there yet. That’s the challenge for us to get him to that point, as well as preparing Cyler and Jeff.”
Brown has the arm strength, sometimes its just finding the touch and the accuracy which come with time.
“Derrick, I think has progressively gotten better and better and better,” Sarkisian said. “He’s throwing the ball with more conviction. It’s the belief in what he’s seeing and what he’s reading is there and he’s trusting it.”
Miles was heralded as a bigger version of Keith Price when he came to UW out of Denver. At 6-4, 223 pounds, he’s a freakish athlete for his size. He can move like Price and has plenty of arm strength.
Sure, here are times where he gets confused by coverages and play-checks at the line of scrimmage, and he’s often quick to leave the pocket at the sign of pressure, but his ability to improvise, avoid the pressure and throw on the run are next-level for an 18-year-old player.
“He shows a great deal of composure for a young guy,” Sarkisian said.
He has also shown surprising accuracy. In the last scrimmage, he competed 4-of-6 passes for 58 yards.
The possibility of being able to redshirt Miles and Lindquist is very real, particularly if Brown continues to progress and if Price continues to stay healthy.
Either Brown or Miles will be the backup, the snaps in practice in the coming weeks will likely tell even if Sarkisian won’t.
The school will announce today that they will play the University of Montana at Husky Stadium in the 2017 season, according to a high level source. Montana, a powerhouse at the Football Championship Subdivision level (formerly I-AA), will join Eastern Washington (2011 and 2014) and Portland State (2012) and Idaho State (2013) as Big Sky Conference teams to play the Huskies. … Offensive linemen Erik Kohler (knee) was a full go at practice, getting some work in at the offensive line. He played center with the first-team offense, giving senior Drew Schaefer a few series off. Sarkisian said he wasn’t sure exactly where Kohler would fit back into the mix. But he admitted that he would need more than five linemen to play in the first few games. Kohler has started games at right guard and right tackle in his career. … Linebacker Thomas Tutogi (knee) also was a full go at practice, getting work in with the second-team defense. … Linebacker Travis Feeney (concussion) practiced with the No. 1 defense in a yellow no-contact jersey. Feeney stepped back in and replaced Evan Zeger, who had been with the first team.