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Originally published Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 7:11 PM

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Huskies working hard to keep Price out of harm's way this season

Quarterback being instructed to get rid of the ball sooner, more often

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian doesn't play favorites when it comes to getting a point across in practice.

Earlier this week, he reserved some of his harshest words for quarterback Keith Price, he of the record-shattering season in 2011.

And the lesson of the moment?

To get rid of the ball more quickly.

In 2011, Price threw for a school-record 33 touchdowns, among other accomplishments, despite playing most of the season with a variety of injuries, notably a knee strain that dated to the first half of the first game against Eastern Washington.

Price has tried to solve some of his health issues by spending the offseason undergoing a revamped conditioning program aimed at strengthening his legs and increasing his weight to just more than 200 pounds from the 185 that he finished last season.

Sarkisian is trying to solve another issue by drilling into Price the advantages of getting rid of the ball when plays break down instead of scrambling around to try to make something happen — and putting himself at more risk of getting hit.

In a practice this week, when Price took an extra step or two, Sarkisian called him over and loudly told him to get rid of the ball, using his arms to animatedly motion the lane where Price should have thrown the ball instead of continuing to run.

"It's obviously a point of emphasis of ours that we are not going to take sacks and minimize our sacks and not take unnecessary hits," Sarkisian said. "And especially when we are in the red zone and not taking sacks, and it's a point of emphasis for him and for us as an offense so we have to make sure we get the point across."

Told it seems Price has improved in that area, Sarkisian said: "He's better, but he's got to get better. We can't accept that."

Said Price, with his trademark smile: "A lot of quarterbacks have that issue. It's something you just have to learn, to burn the ball and live to see another play."

It's a fine line the Huskies are trying to walk as Price has undeniable value using his legs, as his three touchdown runs in the Alamo Bowl — the one game last season in which Price claimed to be healthy throughout — attest.

And the lessons being branded into Price this camp are pretty similar to those being ingrained into quarterbacks everywhere — few teams can survive their starting quarterback going down.

But once again, the Huskies are in a spot where they might have as wide a perceived gap heading into the season between starter and backup as any team in the country.

The grand plan for the Huskies for this season was that Nick Montana, son of NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana, would be the backup for Price, having gotten his feet wet with a start against Oregon State last season as well as some other time in reserve.

But Montana decided in January to transfer in search of more playing time elsewhere (he's reportedly headed to Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif.).

That leaves UW with three untested scholarship players behind Price — redshirt freshman Derrick Brown and true freshmen Jeff Lindquist (of Mercer Island) and Cyler Miles (of Denver).

Sarkisian said this week he plans to give more time to the three backups than might be normal to assure they are ready to go if needed. As to who will emerge as the backup, however, that's a battle that could last well into the season.

Brown, having redshirted last year, has the edge in experience, while the Huskies might optimally hope to redshirt one or both of Lindquist and Miles to preserve their year of eligibility, especially if they are not needed outside of garbage time.

Conversely, Sarkisian says he'll play the best players, regardless of redshirt considerations.

He said he's been impressed early on by the poise and readiness of both Lindquist and Miles, though the real tests begin Friday when the team puts on full pads for the first time.

Injury bug hits

A day after learning that running back Deontae Cooper will miss a third consecutive season with an ACL injury, UW also suffered a few other injuries. Maybe most notably, defensive end Hau'oli Jamora sprained his left knee, the same one he suffered an ACL tear last year that caused him to miss the last nine games of the season. Sarkisian said Jamora will have arthroscopic surgery to see if there is any further damage to the knee and will be out at least two weeks.

Also sitting out practice was receiver James Johnson with a foot injury, while linebackers Nate Fellner (foot) and Princeton Fuimaono (hamstring) suffered injuries during practice. Linebacker Taz Stevenson also left with migraines.

It was unclear the extent of the injuries to Johnson and Fellner.

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

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