Washington hopes to avoid using backup plan at QB

It’s a scenario that everyone at Washington hopes will remain an

emergency plan during the 2010 season.

But if something were to happen to quarterback Jake Locker that

put the Huskies’ star on the bench for more than a few downs, the

job would fall to either an unproven redshirt freshman or a true

freshman with unmatched bloodlines.

The most comfortable option for coach Steve Sarkisian would

likely be redshirt freshman Keith Price, an athletic QB now in his

second season in Washington’s system.

The more appealing option could be true freshman Nick Montana.

And yes, it’s that Montana, the son of Hall of Famer Joe Montana,

and one of the more high-profile recruits Sarkisian has landed in

his short time at Washington.

It’s a precarious debate for Sarkisian as the Huskies go through

spring practice and develop their plan for when fall camp arrives

in August. Price has more experience in Sarkisian’s system and has

already used his redshirt season. Montana may be more talented, but

is still young and could benefit from a season of spectating.

Ultimately, it’s a decision everyone hopes is moot.

“I want to see … who is the best prepared for that spot. And

if Keith is that, so be it, that’s great for us,” Sarkisian said.

“I don’t know if (having backup settled) is high on my wish list

yet.”

This wasn’t supposed to be a concern for the Huskies. The plan

was for Montana to get his redshirt season without question and for

Price to serve as the No. 3 quarterback, giving each another year

to mature before competing for the starting role after Locker

graduates.

That was before last year’s backup, Ronnie Fouch, announced he

was transferring to Indiana State in the hopes of getting more

playing time. Fouch started eight games in 2008 when Locker was

injured, but threw just one pass last season.

“I wasn’t worried about where I was on the depth chart, because

I was redshirting, I had so much stuff ahead of me,” Price said.

“After the season ended, I started picking up the system and then

I began thinking, ‘I’m coming for the second spot.”’

Price wasn’t unnoticed when he arrived at Washington. Some

scouting services considered the shifty 6-foot-1 QB among the top

50 signal callers in the country coming out of St. John Bosco in

the Los Angeles area. He threw for 2,260 yards and 24 touchdowns,

while also running for 579 yards and 10 scores as a senior.

But he can’t match up to the name Montana, who is being held

from speaking with the media until the fall as part of Sarkisian’s

team rules on newcomers.

Montana graduated early from Oaks Christian High in Westlake

Village, Calif., in time to enroll at Washington for spring quarter

and get on the field for practice. Playing for one of the most

star-studded programs in California – on the same team with the

sons of Wayne Gretzky and Will Smith – Montana stood out, throwing

for 2,636 yards and 34 touchdowns.

Now, he’s getting inundated with new language and new plays,

trying to process it and be impressive enough that the Huskies

would consider not redshirting him. Price understands it better

than anyone else, having gone through the same indoctrination less

than a year ago.

“I sit back and laugh, because Nick is getting a lot of stuff

thrown at him. It’s tough. I tell him to keep his head up,” Price

said. “I was in the same spot.”

When it comes to determining who Locker’s backup will be,

Sarkisian said a redshirt season isn’t as crucial for quarterbacks

as other positions if they are mentally capable.

“Keith Price when we go to fall camp, day one this year

compared to last year, is going to be night and day difference of a

player. You’re seeing it already,” Sarkisian said. “Nick Montana,

the value of getting a redshirt would be great, but that remains to

be seen if we’ll get that luxury.”