By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE — There’s no quarterback controversy at the University of Washington.
But there will most certainly be a decision to make this week for coach Steve Sarkisian, who couldn’t say for sure on Monday whether senior quarterback Keith Price will be healthy enough to play Saturday against California.
The issue is the thumb on Price’s right throwing hand. He’s played in three games with that injury — all of them losses for the Huskies — and was forced from UW’s 53-24 loss to Arizona State after taking six sacks and several other hits from the Sun Devils defense.
X-ray images taken during that game returned negative, but there’s a new problem — the swelling on Price’s thumb is in a different spot than before.
“I don’t know if that’s a byproduct of the original injury or not,” Sarkisian said. “But when you play quarterback and you have to grab the football, your thumb plays a pivotal role in gripping the ball and throwing the ball.”
If he can’t grip it and throw it well enough to give the Huskies their best possible chance to win — the one true measure of whether or not anyone should ever play, Sarkisian believes — then redshirt freshman quarterback Cyler Miles will likely make his first career start.
Against lowly Cal (1-6, 0-4 in Pac-12), it would be a relatively soft landing. The Bears allow 525.4 yards and 44.4 points per game.
In limited action this season, Miles has completed 5-of-8 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, and has carried seven times for 106 yards rushing. He relieved Price on Saturday, and also played sparingly in blowout victories over Boise State and Idaho State.
Miles played most of Saturday’s fourth quarter, but Sarkisian said he didn’t consider taking Price out of the game earlier despite repeated hard hits and unrelenting pressure from ASU’s defense.
“I wanted to give him his chance to fight and compete in a game in a tough environment, which we knew it would be a tough one and unfortunately it didn’t work out,” Sarkisian said. “But if that’s to a fault of mine, then it is and I’ll take it for that, knowing our players know I’m going to be there with them and standing in there with them, because I think that he deserves that.”
Price said afterward that he was a little sore, but otherwise refused to blame his poor throws on his ailing thumb.
Sarkisian said it’s something he’ll have to monitor throughout the week. Washington returns to practice today.
“I think physically, that’s easy to see, right? Is the ball coming off his hand? Is he throwing it well? The mental side is the one that is challenging to dig into,” Sarkisian said, “of where exactly he stands in part due to some of the physical ailments that he might have. That’s the stuff I really try to watch closely and not necessarily always at practice. It’s around the office, it’s around the building, his body language.
“Again, I’ve known Keith for over five years now and he’s a tough kid, and he’s going to prepare himself mentally, physically and emotionally to be ready to play. We’ll have to figure out if that’s good enough. That’s the challenge of my job and I embrace the challenge.”
James memorial scheduled
A public memorial for longtime UW coach Don James, who died Sunday, will be held at 3 p.m. this Sunday at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
The Huskies plan to honor James in a variety of ways during Saturday’s game, including a special halftime presentation. UW players will wear a “DJ” decal on their helmets the rest of the season, and coaches will wear a similar patch.
Sarkisian reflected on James’ legacy during his Monday press conference.
“I think for me, he had an impact obviously on the players that played for him, the coaches that coached with him, but I think on the entire University of Washington and our community, the impact that he left and the legacy he’s left here is something that’s unparalleled,” Sarkisian said.