Huskies set to start spring with focus on QB

Huskies set to start spring with focus on QB
Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian, left, talks with his starting quarterback Keith Price (17) during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Wily Low)
SEATTLE (AP) - Finding the Keith Price from two years ago, the quarterback that set records at Washington and was briefly tossed about as a Heisman candidate, is at the top of Steve Sarkisian's spring agenda.

Doing so means helping Price regain his confidence and that didn't come some easily during a difficult junior season.

"I thought as we endured our struggles last year with this team we tried to manufacture the Keith Price of old," Sarkisian said on Monday. "That's not how it works. It's developed through confidence, through belief where it exudes out of him and it's not trying to be created superficially. I think from everything I've seen in offseason workouts to this point, that's where we're at. Now he has to go perform."

Washington will begin its earliest spring practice under Sarkisian on Tuesday and at the top of the priorities is helping out Price and the rest of Washington's passing game. Last season Price threw 19 touchdowns against 13 interceptions, was sacked 37 times and often played apprehensive and jumpy behind an unproven offensive line. The sacks allowed were tied for sixth-most in the country.

It was part of a significant drop in Washington's passing game from Price's sophomore season when he played behind a more settled offensive line, with two experienced receivers and set a school record with 33 touchdown passes.

Everything during spring ball will be structured for Price, who has a glut of talented young quarterbacks behind him, led by Cyler Miles, Jeff Lindquist and early-enrollee Troy Williams. While getting time for the youngsters is important, getting Price back to top form is the priority.

During offseason conditioning, Price's focus was on strengthening his lower body and his core in the hopes that he would be able to stay stronger in the pocket and not get taken down on so many one-armed tackles.

"He's got real playmaking ability because of his unique ability to keep his vision downfield, which is what we've seen out of him," Sarkisian said. "He lost some of that last year and I think partially that's why some of our sack numbers went up and also why some of our big plays, our explosive plays in our offense diminished and that's something we definitely need to get back."

To help in finding some offensive rhythm, Sarkisian said there would be more no-huddle used during spring camp with a dual purpose. One is to help his quarterback, the other is to help Washington's defense get a taste for what will be coming this fall against high-paced, spread offense teams like Oregon and Arizona.

In an effort to get his players outside their comfort zone, Sarkisian has drastically changed the schedule for Washington's spring camp. The Huskies will hold four of their six practices before the school's spring break at 8:30 p.m. Once the team returns from break, the Huskies will hold six of their final eight practices before the spring game at 8:30 a.m.

Sarkisian said his team has proven it can play well in familiar surroundings, but has struggled in different situations.

"Trying to get these guys to understand it's not about where we play or what time we play or who we're playing or what uniforms we're wearing or what uniforms they're wearing, or what condition the field is in, it's about controlling what we can control and controlling our own performance and our preparation. That will be a big point of emphasis for us."