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Originally published March 28, 2011 at 7:00 PM | Page modified March 29, 2011 at 1:55 PM

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Focus on QBs Nick Montana, Keith Price as Washington spring practice opens

Who will replace Jake Locker? That's the burning question as Washington opens spring football practice Tuesday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Latest from the Husky Football & Basketball blogs


Washington coach Steve Sarkisian took roughly 1,000 words Monday before he got to the issue that looms over spring football: Who will replace Jake Locker at quarterback?

Not that Sarkisian necessarily wants to refer to the competition between redshirt sophomore Keith Price and redshirt freshman Nick Montana in such stark terms.

"The battle, in a sense, is a little over-hyped, to me," he said. "We're on a football team. The natural thing is that we want to pit Keith and Nick against one another, but the reality is that they are not against each other, they are together. And they are doing this together to make us a better football team. That's the goal."

Still, eyes will inevitably linger longest on Montana and Price as UW begins spring practice at Husky Stadium at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The Huskies will hold 15 practices culminating in the spring game April 30 at 11 a.m.

Don't expect a decision on a starter by then, though.

"I could see it going into September," Sarkisian said. "I hate to rush to judgment on this thing, because they are so young and their ceiling is so high and there's so much room to grow. I don't want to make a decision based on a couple of practices and say, 'This is your role and this is your role.'

"I think they could ultimately improve not only through spring, but into summer and fall camp. If the timing's right and it feels right to me, then we'll make a decision."

Sarkisian even held out the option — however slim — that he could go with two quarterbacks. But he has consistently said he prefers not to do that. So sometime before the Sept. 3 opener against Eastern Washington, one quarterback likely will get the call to take over for Locker, who started the last four years except when injured.

In fact, this marks the first spring since 2005 with a wide-open quarterback job (when Isaiah Stanback beat out Johnny DuRocher). And it's the least experienced UW has been at the spot since 2004. In 2007, when Locker ascended to the job, he beat out Carl Bonnell, who had been the starter at the end of the 2006 season.

Price appears to have a slight edge because he played a little bit last season, including the entire Oregon game (his lone start) when Locker was injured.

A solid runner, Price plays a style that more closely resembles Locker than Montana, who has a reputation as more of a dropback passer.

Sarkisian, though, says whoever wins the job, the Huskies' offense will hopefully continue the success of the four-game winning streak that concluded the 2010 season. That style was heavy on power running from Chris Polk, who will be back for his junior season. Polk's return, as well as the return of four offensive linemen who saw significant starting time last season, could help break in the new starter.

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Sarkisian says Price and Montana, who are the only scholarship quarterbacks until fall, will get equal snaps in practice throughout spring.

"We have to continually put them in the settings where they can show off and show where they have those intangibles, and where they are deficient," he said.

Sarkisian met with the media for roughly 40 minutes about several topics, but the conversation inevitably turned back to the quarterback position. At one point, he stated that one goal for whomever wins the job is to help make the Huskies better in dropback passing.

"Our efficiency's not great," he said in reviewing the dropback passing game. "We are spotty. We make some plays here and there and then it just doesn't feel good. It's ugly. It's choppy, I guess is the best word. I'm really looking to the efficiency factor of it. You know, the beauty of a dropback passing game is the fluidness of it and the precision of it. ... That precision in our dropback pass game has got to improve."

NOTES

• Sarkisian announced that senior DE Kalani Aldrich and junior OL Mykenna Ikehara will not return to the team because of chronic knee issues. Both will remain in school on medical scholarships.

• DL/LB Jarett Finau from Juanita, who had hoped to enroll in time for spring practice, will not be able to, Sarkisian said. That leaves TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Gig Harbor as the only early enrollee from the Class of 2011.

• All spring practices remain open to the public. Times for Tuesday and Thursday workouts are 4 p.m., while Saturdays are at 11 a.m. except April 16, which begins at 1 p.m.

• Sarkisian said the team had a combined GPA of 2.76 for the just-completed quarter, which he said is the highest ever recorded for the football program.

Scout.com reported that UW has gotten its first commitment for the recruiting Class of 2012 from running back Tairen Owens of Muir High in Pasadena, Calif.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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