The Washington Huskies had a very successful 2011 campaign where they finished 7-6 and reached a bowl game for the second straight season.
A major bright spot for the Dawgs was the play of junior quarterback Keith Price.
Price, after taking over for Jake Locker after he went on to the NFL, performed extremely well in his first starting season, setting school records in touchdown passes (33) and finishing second in passing yards (3,063 yards).
Nonetheless, Husky fans are eager to see their team return to dominance reminiscent of the early 2000s, where UW was competing for Rose Bowls.
Price will undoubtedly play a major role in the successes or failures of the 2012 Huskies, and a healthy Price could mean a great deal.
Even with his gaudy 2011 numbers, Price could still find a few parts of his game to tweak, which could even make him a Heisman hopeful next season.
Here is an analysis of Price’s strengths and weaknesses.
Price is a pure athlete, as he showed when Washington narrowly lost to No. 12 Baylor in the Alamo Bowl last season. Robert Griffin III may have gotten the victory, but Price was the better quarterback on the field.
He finished the day with 438 yards passing, four passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns. He is versatile and can do it through the air or on the ground.
When defenders do show pressure, hoping to make him uncomfortable in the pocket, Price is able to move away from the pressure and reset his feet, making him difficult for defensive coordinators to game-plan around.
By being able to move around the pocket and keep plays alive, Price allows Husky receivers more time to get open, which gives Washington’s offense a greater possibility of scoring on big plays.
Although he is an exceptional athlete, Price needs to become a better decision maker.
Perhaps it was because it was his first year as a starter and he was not completely accustomed to Pac-12 defenses, but it seemed like often times he had made up his mind prior to the snap, which led to him forcing balls into tight coverage.
Instead, Price needs to take what the defense allows and utilize check downs when necessary.
Furthermore, Price needs to be able to realize when to get the ball away if he faces pressure. He took 26 sacks last season, which is too many when he has the ability to escape pressure. Price needs to learn to throw the ball away rather than trying to make something out of nothing.
Price is a very accurate passer. In 2011, he completed nearly 67 percent of his passes.
He is very good on short to intermediate routes and he is able to put the ball in windows that others would not be able to.
By being able to move around the pocket while still scanning down the field, Price is able to make plays throughout the field, whereas other quarterbacks would be left on the turf.
Price relies on accuracy rather than a cannon arm and it works out quite nicely for him, as he usually hits on big plays when the defense gambles.
Price consistently had huge-yardage games where he would connect on one deep pass. With another year of experience for young receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington fans could be in for another record-setting year from Price.
Price lacks the ideal size for a quarterback, especially considering he is so athletic and can make plays with his feet.
Price is listed at 6’1” and 195 pounds, compared to other similar quarterbacks such as Griffin III, who is only 6’2”, yet weighs 220 pounds.
His height is out of his control, but Price will miss some passing windows due to his size.
And by putting more weight on his slender frame, Price may lose some mobility, but will be able to sustain more hits. Perhaps added muscle would also also him to add some distance to his deep ball, which could aid the Huskies, who boast some of the tallest threats in the conference.
After he missed time last season due to nagging injuries, Price could stand to pack on a couple pounds before the season opener.
The Alamo Bowl was an excellent example of his ability in big games, but if the Huskies want a chance of competing with the upper echelon of the Pac-12, such as Oregon and USC, both of whom they match up with next season, they will need Price to lead the way.
Price was thrust into the spotlight during his first year under center for the Dawgs, and he performed well enough to keep UW in the game against Oregon. Against the Ducks he finished with two touchdowns and two interceptions, yet he had Washington down only seven in the late stages of the fourth quarter.
However, a week later against USC, he injured his left knee in the third quarter and left the game.
Nonetheless, Price bounced back nicely, and finished his season with strong performances in the Huskies’ rivalry game against Washington State and in their bowl game against Baylor.
Perhaps Price’s biggest weakness is the fact that he has gotten hurt. Husky fans found out last year that a banged-up Price spells bad things for Washington, as they watched backup Nick Montana lose a very winnable game against Oregon State last season.
Husky fans found out the hard way that Price at 80 percent is better than anything else Washington has to offer.
Price never missed a game last year, yet after taking five sacks against USC, he left with a sprained knee and missed the remainder of the game as well as a large part of the loss to the Beavers.
If Price can stay healthy, Washington could be headed for a breakout campaign in 2012.
However, if he can’t seem to stay on the field, the Huskies could be left with Derrick Brown under center, which could spell doom for a once-promising season.