Pac-12 Football: Will Washington QB Keith Price Live Up to the Hype in 2012?
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The return of heralded USC quarterback Matt Barkley will likely be the biggest storyline in the Pac-12 this offseason, given that Barkley is widely being touted as the early consensus Heisman favorite and the front-runner to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Barkley casts a sizable shadow over the rest of the conference’s quarterbacks, but that certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t other Pac-12 signal-callers that are deserving of preseason praise as well.
Six other starting quarterbacks besides Barkley will return for the 2012 season, along with a few new intriguing faces such as Arizona’s Matt Scott and Stanford’s Brett Nottingham.
There is one Pac-12 quarterback in particular, though, who seems like he could be most capable of stealing some of Barkley’s thunder this season, and that’s Washington’s Keith Price.
Price is now entering his second year as a starter after an eye-opening breakout campaign in 2011.
While the Huskies may have only posted a 7-6 overall record last season, Price certainly wasn’t to blame for the team’s mediocrity, as he ended up turning in one of the best individual performances in the country in his first year taking over for Jake Locker.
The 6’1’’, 195-pound junior may have endured a few struggles against the conference’s two top teams, USC and Oregon, but overall he put together a mighty impressive introductory season, as he completed nearly 67 percent of his passes for over 3,000 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Price’s signature performance of 2011 came in the Alamo Bowl against Baylor in late December. After being largely overlooked in terms of national publicity throughout the year, Price really caught the college football world’s attention when he topped off his showcase season by outperforming Heisman winning quarterback and this year’s No. 2 overall draft pick Robert Griffin III in the wild 67-56 shootout defeat.
The Huskies hurler torched the Bears defense, throwing for 438 yards and accounting for all seven of his team’s touchdowns (four passing, three rushing) in the losing effort.
That sensational showing has now helped Price to garner some of the attention he rightfully deserves.
While he’ll still enter the season largely overshadowed by his conference counterpart Matt Barkley, Price’s name has begun to pop up on numerous preseason All-Pac-12 teams and Heisman watch lists, and he’s starting to gain some substantial buzz and positive momentum going into the 2012 season.
Now that the former three star recruit out of California’s St. John Bosco High School has started to gain the proper national recognition and appreciation, it’s fair to begin asking if Price will indeed live up to his new found hype in his second year as a starter.
It wasn’t long ago when everyone was singing the praises of another Washington quarterback, Jake Locker, but we all remember how that eventually turned out.
After receiving massive amounts of preseason publicity during the summer of 2010 and being praised as a future No. 1 overall NFL draft pick, Locker ended up stumbling in his senior year, as he failed to come close to living up to the immense expectations that had been placed on his shoulders.
The good news for Price is that he won’t face the same level of pressure and scrutiny that Locker had to deal with in 2010.
The bad news, though, is that he’s lost some key members of the solid supporting cast he had surrounding him last year.
This offseason, Washington will have to figure out how to replace starting running back Chris Polk, who rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the past three seasons, as well as its two most productive receivers, Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar. In addition, it is losing both starting offensive tackles, including Senio Kelemete who was a fifth-round pick in this year’s NFL draft.
Price will now have two sophomores—wide receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins—as his new go-to targets in the passing game, and lining up behind him will be junior running back Jesse Callier and sophomore Bishop Sankey.
Williams, Seferian-Jenkins, Callier and Sankey are all certainly capable offensive threats, but it remains to be seen how they will ultimately fit into the overall flow of the new offensive attack.
Williams and Seferian-Jenkins, who combined to catch 77 passes for 965 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011, are two former highly touted high school recruits who both have the potential to develop into dangerous receiving weapons this season.
If Williams and Seferian-Jenkins can both step up their level of play, Price should have no trouble finding consistent success through the air again in 2012.
What will be very interesting to see, however, is how the athletic dual-threat signal-caller will use his legs as a weapon this season. Last year, Price’s mobility was limited after he sustained injuries to both of his knees early in the season, and he ended up rushing for just 10 net yards.
That total should increase dramatically in 2012 if Price’s knees are back to full strength and if the coaching staff decides to let its speedy signal-caller off the leash so he can utilize his tremendous running ability.
Price is a versatile athlete who is capable of burning a defense with either his arm or his legs, and the scary part is now that he has a year of experience under his belt, he may be about to really start tapping into his true potential this season.
Considering that Washington will have to deal with inexperience at key offensive positions, and since the defense will have so much to prove after its dreadful showing last year, the Huskies’ outlook will be tempered going into the 2012 season, and they likely won’t be expected to be a major factor in the Pac-12 North division.
Still, with Price back at the helm, Washington will be an opponent that no Pac-12 team will want to have to square off with this season—even the conference’s two juggernauts, USC and Oregon.
With a schedule that includes matchups with LSU, Oregon, USC, Stanford, Utah and California, the Huskies probably won’t be able to put up enough wins this year for Price to be considered a truly legitimate Heisman candidate. Nevertheless, there’s still a good chance that we could see the explosive dual-threat signal-caller put together a similar type of individual performance to the one we saw from 2011 Heisman winner Robert Griffin III last year.
Price may not be able to ultimately overtake Matt Barkley and earn the title of Pac-12’s best quarterback this season, but he definitely has the potential to give Barkley a real run for his money, and it should be fun to see just how bright the budding star will shine in 2012.
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