By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE – With the caveat that there is still film to be watched and a final discussion to have as a staff, University of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said Thursday there shouldn’t be much doubt as to who will quarterback the Huskies this weekend.
Keith Price looked “really good” in practice Thursday, Sarkisian said, and the fifth-year senior’s injured thumb is apparently healthy enough that Sarkisian expects him to start.
“I’d be surprised if he didn’t play,” Sarkisian said. “But like I said, we had a plan for today of what we wanted to get done on the field, and obviously looking at the film and then as a staff. So (we will) stick to the plan, but just off of first glimpse, real time, I thought he looked really good.”
Price was limited in practice earlier this week, with Sarkisian saying he’d wait until Thursday to push him a little harder and see how much the swelling on his thumb is still bothering him. That left open the possibility that backup Cyler Miles, a redshirt freshman, might make his first career start.
For now, it doesn’t appear that will happen. With players unavailable to media on Thursdays, it’s hard to know just how much better Price feels. But he did say after Wednesday’s practice that he’d been spending plenty of time this week in the training room, doing everything he could to get his hand game-ready.
The last couple days may have been beneficial to the healing process.
“I think there’s some merit to that,” Sarkisian said. “Not only from the thumb perspective, but his overall body and even his mind, (to) kind of clear his mind a little bit, watch Cyler play, watch Cyler do some good stuff. To come back today energized, I think there is some merit to that, that that helped.”
Getting Price healthy is the easier part. Keeping him that way could prove more difficult, especially if the offensive line doesn’t improve on its effort last weekend against Arizona State, which sacked Price six times and knocked him out of the game.
So lacking was UW’s offensive line play that Dan Cozzetto, the gruff, veteran offensive line coach, told a reporter after Wednesday’s practice that he considered that game “an abomination.”
Improvement is needed, even against a California team that has yet to beat an FBS opponent this season and enters Saturday’s game with a 1-6 record. The Huskies rank 97th in the country in sacks allowed, yielding 2.71 per game.
“We definitely took it to heart. It didn’t reflect our level of play,” said center Mike Criste. We didn’t play to our level down there. We didn’t accomplish our goals, and it’s definitely a hard thing to watch on film and definitely a hard thing to see, knowing that’s out there and people are going to think that’s you. So this whole week we’ve definitely been focusing on every minute detail trying to get everything perfect and ready for Cal.”
Price’s health problems throughout his career have been largely the result of the repeated hits he’s taken from opposing defenses, and admitted last season he might have worried too much about whether everyone else was doing their job.
But he’ll be the last to assign blame.
“They’re practicing hard. They’re coming out here and putting their best foot forward,” Price said of UW’s offensive line. “It’s nothing I can say or do to put a pep in their step. They already know what they need to accomplish. Coach Cozzetto’s been doing an awesome job coaching those guys up. They know what they need to do in order for us to be successful.”
Sarkisian was asked Thursday if trust is an issue between Price and the offensive line.
His response was terse.
“No. We’re a good football team,” Sarkisian said. “We’ll play great offense Saturday night.”