SEATTLE — The first full season as a starting quarterback went about as well as anyone could have expected for University of Washington sophomore Keith Price last fall.
Now, the Huskies are hoping to see what he looks like while playing with two legs.
Price’s phenomenal first season as a starter was plagued by minor knee injuries that hobbled him but didn’t necessarily water down his production. A full month of inactivity helped the junior-to-be get his legs back, and now the Huskies are expecting even bigger things from Price in the fall.
“Even with the knee problems, he was better than almost all the Pac-12 quarterbacks,” tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said. “He’s just going to be even better without the knee problems. He’s just going to be running all over the place, so look out. It’s going to be fun and interesting to watch.”
Both coach Steve Sarkisian and Price said the quarterback had a clean bill of health when spring practices opened last week. Price began last Monday’s practice with protective brace on his left knee but ditched it midway through the session. A few minutes later, he broke off a long run on a quarterback scramble.
“I thought he looked explosive,” Sarkisian said after the Huskies opened the spring season with a Monday morning practice. “I thought he looked strong.”
After Monday’s practice, Price said he felt as healthy as he’s been since his freshman year in 2009, when he was a redshirt who occasionally helped run the scout team at practices. It’s been a welcome change for Price, who hurt his right knee in the 2011 opener and was playing through two sprained knees by the end of September.
Price was never fully healthy last season, yet he broke the UW single-season record for passing touchdowns (33), completion percentage (66.9) and passer efficiency rating (161.09) and posted the second-highest total in passing yards (3,063) in school history.
Not bad for a first-year starter who was playing on one, and sometimes zero, healthy legs.
“My injuries were about six- to eight-week (injuries), and I was playing the next week,” Price said. “It was just a matter of me getting off my feet and getting rested.”
Price’s offseason didn’t require any surgical procedures — his knees justd needed a long period of inactivity. Now three months later, Price is feeling as healthy as ever.
“I’m using my new legs,” he said after Monday’s practice.
Although he has altered his workout to add muscle and flexibility to his knees, Price is still checking in at about the same size that he did last season — 6-foot-1, 195 pounds. Sarkisian said his quarterback’s physique isn’t as much of a factor in the injuries as people might think.
“I think he’s plenty big enough,” Sarkisian said, adding that Price has never had any upper-body injuries that are often associated with smaller frames.
“There have been a lot of guys smaller than him that played the position and have gone on to do great things. He’ll continue to grow and mature, but I think he’s plenty big enough.”
Price said the key to staying healthy is avoiding the hits when games start in the fall.
“A lot of those (injuries) were on me, just taking ill-advised sacks and not getting rid of the ball,” Price said. “That’s what happens when you don’t get rid of the ball in time.”
The spring season has provided some encouraging signs in regards to Price’s health, but that’s only a small step toward the Huskies’ eventual goal.
“The key for Keith isn’t” this time of year,” Sarkisian said. “In my mind, I’m thinking October. How do we keep building him up to stay strong for an extended period of time? That’s going to be a continued focus with him — in the training room, and as we practice.”