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Originally published April 30, 2011 at 6:01 PM | Page modified April 30, 2011 at 10:36 PM

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Steve Kelley

Huskies' life after Locker in good hands with Keith Price, Nick Montana

On a sun-splashed Saturday, in front of about 10,000 hungry Huskies fans, life after Locker officially began, with Keith Price, the heir apparent, performing well.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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On a sun-splashed Saturday, in front of about 10,000 hungry Huskies fans, life after Locker officially began.

And at the end of an optimistic performance, the heir apparent, redshirt sophomore quarterback Keith Price, faked a handoff to Willis Wilson, who was running to the right, and took off on a bootleg around left end.

Price accelerated past the line of scrimmage and ran untouched 29 yards for the final touchdown of an entertaining Washington spring football game.

He completed 20 of 28 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns. And although his rushing numbers don't mean a lot, because the defense wasn't allowed to hit him, Price also scrambled for another 53 yards on five carries.

He may not be the running threat Jake Locker was, but Price is deceptively fast and obviously instinctive.

"I thought he played well today," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "I thought he made good decisions. Two scrimmages in a row, he's really performed."

Price made all the throws. He showed a good understanding of the offense. He had that escapability, the sense of knowing when to break the pocket that is essential for a college quarterback.

He play-faked well. He didn't commit a turnover. His offense was flagged for only one penalty, a false start, and he spread the wealth.

Price threw touchdown passes of 5 yards to Jermaine Kearse, 13 to DiAndre Campbell and 2 yards to James Johnson.

He hit William Chandler in stride for a 37-yard gain. And on probably his best throw of the afternoon, he completed a 29-yard pass through traffic to tight end Michael Hartvigson, though it was marred by Hartvigson's fumble.

All spring, Price and redshirt freshman Nick Montana have been in a good, old-fashioned fight to replace Locker as the Huskies' starting quarterback.

After this game, and after 15 practices, Sarkisian said he wasn't ready to declare a winner. He wanted some time away to think about the decision.

He also joked that his wife, Stephanie, wanted him to make the decision quickly, because she has to face the quarterback question when she's ordering her daily nonfat vanilla latte.

Memo to Mrs. Sarkisian: Tell the coffee people that barring some summer disaster, Price has earned the job.

At the least, he is the leader in the clubhouse.

"I would think so," Sarkisian said, when asked if Price was in the lead. "But today wasn't going to define who was going to be our starting quarterback. It's a body of work."

While all the focus, naturally, has been on Locker the past two seasons, Price patiently has paid his dues and slowly grown into a starting Pac-12 quarterback.

He has done what he's supposed to do. He has studied. He has worked. He has asked the right questions. He has prepared for this time in his life.

"He's very engaged," Sarkisian said. "Keith's a really bright young guy. He's an engaging kid. He's very competitive. Bright-eyed. A lot of energy. And loves the game of football, which is what you want."

Sarkisian, however, said he would like Price to add some weight this summer.

Meanwhile, Montana added a dash of spice to the competition and even more anticipation to the start of summer practices by arcing a perfect pass to Cody Bruns, who turned it into a 70-yard, catch-and-run touchdown.

Montana threw a pair of touchdown passes and connected on 9 of 20 throws for 146 yards and, like Price, was turnover free. He was sacked four times.

"I think it's a great battle," Sarkisian said. "To watch these guys continually compete, not necessarily with one another, but with themselves. To see some of the adversity that can come with this. Maybe they struggle for a day. Maybe the other guy has a good day. Maybe they have a couple of drops. Maybe it's the weather.

"They've both improved at a high level. To think that we have a redshirt freshman and a redshirt sophomore competing for this job, and the fact they're playing the way they are, is very encouraging for me."

In today's bigger, faster, stronger era of college football, a program needs more than one quality quarterback. And on this last day of football's figurative spring, the final pre-summer peek into the future, both Keith Price and Nick Montana showed that Washington football will successfully survive life after Locker.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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