With spring practice underway, the 2011 Huskies look ahead to what should be a bright future.
After finishing third in the Pac-10 and ending the season with three straight wins against UCLA, Cal and Washington State to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2002, head coach Steve Sarkisian has his players’ eyes on the prize.
With the departure of quarterback Jake Locker, the first question is who does Sarkisian place under center next year?
The competition will be between redshirt sophomore Keith Price and redshirt freshman Nick Montana. Sarkisian hinted that the competition should run through the entire spring camp and could possibly take most of fall camp to decide who runs the offense against Eastern Washington on September 3rd.
I like the skills and intangibles that both players have to offer the team. I thought Price showed great composure last year inside one of the toughest places to play college football, the Autzen Zoo. Price filled in for an injured Locker who was rehabilitating several broken ribs suffered earlier in the season.
For a redshirt freshman who only saw garbage time minutes in the win against Syracuse, I thought he gave us an actual shot at winning up through the first half, which is what I thought was most impressive to see from a freshman.
How many wins do the Huskies get in 2011?
Montana brings that prototypical pro-style quarterback approach, which is what Sarkisian ran with Locker in his final two seasons and made scouts believe he could run an offense at the next level. Second thing that jumps out at me is his ability to throw on the run and his overall pocket presence.
Montana does have a solid two inches on Price and 10 pounds or so, which is the type of build you want to see in a quarterback running a pro-style offense. And it also doesn’t hurt to be the heir of one of, if not, the best quarterback of all time.
Another thing I look forward to seeing is watching the tight end position be facilitated into the rest of our offense. This position has been nearly invisible the past nine years after Kevin Ware and Jerramy Stevens left. Since then, we’ve had Johnnie Kirton (who switched to defensive line his senior year), Kavario Middleton (five-star recruit, transferred to Montana after violating team rules) and Chris Izbicki (five career receptions with two touchdowns, quit the team prior to the Holiday Bowl).
This year should be a whole lot different. Judging from the several spring practices I have attended, I see freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins making an instant impact for the offense. With his size and build, the Huskies should be able to use him over the middle on first and 10 and second and short situations.
On the other side of him is redshirt freshman Michael Hartvigson, who could easily go for 25 plus receptions this year. Hartvigson was medical red shirted last year after suffering a shoulder injury four games in to the year.
Aside from Jenkins, there are two other freshman who I cannot wait to see run out of that tunnel on September 3rd.
First is redshirt freshman tailback Deontae Cooper, who would have saw a ton of a time last year but suffered an ACL tear in his left knee after a routine tackle in fall camp. Cooper has the breakaway speed and the moves to go past, around and over any cornerback in the Pac 12. Running backs coach Joel Thomas considers himself to have three pitches to throw at defenses; Heater (Deontae Cooper), Slider (Jesse Callier) and a Curveball (Chris Polk).
My next player should be pretty obvious. Freshman wide receiver Kasen Williams. I have seen Kasen at several practices and it seems like he can’t wait to put on that No. 2 jersey like his father Aaron did 30 years ago. Kasen’s leaping ability is what stands out most to me. More than his 40-time; more than his hands; more than his size. Kasen won the state 4A high jump title his freshman year of high school. I can already see him lining up at the goal-line and physically outmatching a corner for the ball in the end zone.
September 3rd cannot get here any quicker.