Spring Battles to Watch - Quarterbacks

Is Derrick Brown ready to step up? (Dawgman.com)

With Washington Spring Football a week away, it's time to break down the positions and analyze where the real battles for starting time should take place. We'll start the series at quarterback, the marquis position in college football yet the one arguably most surrounded in mystery heading into March.

Quarterback:
Keith Price, Sr. 6-1, 202
Erik Wilson, Jr. 6-0, 194 (walk-on)
Derrick Brown, So. 6-2, 245
Jeff Lindquist, RFr. 6-3, 234
Cyler Miles, RFr. 6-4, 223
Thomas Vincent, RFr. 6-0, 201 (walk-on)
Troy Williams, Fr. 6-2, 205

The Background:
Never has the position of quarterback been as healthy at Washington, with five scholarship players and two experienced walk-ons. Which is ironic considering their leader, Keith Price, has not been 100 percent since his first start against Eastern Washington two-and-a-half years ago.

So the first question that needs to be asked heading into UW's March 5th spring start: How much will we actually see of Price? With nearly 6000 yards and 54 touchdowns already to his name as the Huskies' No. 1 signal-caller, it's not a question of whether or not Price's legs will allow him to start in 2013; it's simply a matter of how long can he last before they completely give way and he is unable to compete at the level the team needs him at?

Again, another irony - despite having worse numbers in 2012 he didn't miss any playing time compared to his sophomore year, so that has to give fans some comfort as the senior rehabilitates and gets stronger for his senior campaign. In that way I wouldn't expect to see a lot of Price in full scrimmage situations; rather I anticipate Keith doing the minimum amount of physical work to get out of spring what he needs, which is the fundamentals of the 2013 playbook and the rhythm and timing necessary between quarterback and his wide receivers. In that sense I believe Price will work more on routes and the nuances of the pass game rather than doing a lot of live work, which would invariably include scrambling and putting pressure on his knees. And ultimately it's going to be Price's legs that will determine his immediate future, and Steve Sarkisian knows those gams are precious commodities on his team.

As this spring has been set up ever since the end of the 2012 season, the real spring quarterback battles will happen below Price - and they are very young but as talented as any group the Huskies have ever had. So the question there is - who will separate themselves from that quality group to challenge Price for significant playing time and possibly starts?

Is Brown the clear No. 2?:
Sophomore Derrick Brown threw for 23 yards and one interception in mop-up duty, so he's the only other UW player at this position with any playing time whatsoever, so whoever does have to spell Price in a worst-case scenario is going to be green - very green. But what the group lacks in experience they more than make up in athleticism and ability.

Challenger No. 1 - Cyler Miles:
The first one to challenge is expected to be Cyler Miles, the 6-foot-4, 223-pounder from Mullen High School in Denver. Despite the fact that Miles was never going to play last year while redshirting, he was technically the No. 3 quarterback behind Price and Brown due to his work with the depth last fall. Realistically Thomas Vincent would have likely been the third QB off the bench if Price and Brown wouldn't have been able to go.

Miles is a winner, going 37-3 as a starter at Mullen, including back-to-back undefeated state title runs as a sophomore and junior. At one point Mullen won 34 consecutive games under Miles' watch. Miles came to Montlake with some massive credentials. He also has great size, athleticism and poise in the pocket, which led to great decisions in fall which eventually separated himself from Jeff Lindquist, who became an invaluable member of the scout during the season.

Challenger No. 2 - Jeff Lindquist:
Speaking of Lindquist, how much the 6-foot-3, 234 pound redshirt frosh from Mercer Island has developed in the mental side of the game should determine how quickly the quarterbacking battle is joined in March. Lindquist is as physically ready as any of the QB's in the UW stable; if the Huskies were looking for a Jake Locker clone in terms of size and running ability and leadership, Lindquist is as close as you'll find. But the game speeds up quite a bit initially for quarterbacks making the transition from high school to college, and that caught up with Lindquist, an admitted perfectionist. And when things didn't click like he wanted right off the bat Jeff continued to work hard and battle but the game wasn't coming to him as naturally as it did when he was an Islander. How well he has made the transition between the end of the season and spring in terms of his development will determine if this QB battle will be truly joined of if the pecking order has established and the real spring battle will be between Brown and Miles.

On paper the work between Miles and Lindquist is the one people want to see simply due to the promise they bring as players; they both were MVP's of their respective All-America games - Miles (U.S. Army) and Lindquist (Semper Fidelis). They are clearly the two most athletic quarterbacks of the group and should get the lion's share of the attention from first-year QB Coach Marques Tuiasosopo.

What will separate the backup battle?:
The 'X' Factor in the QB equation at Washington has to be Derrick Brown. Many feel his days at UW are numbered simply because of Miles and Lindquist breathing down his neck, but I don't think that's the case at all. The reality for any quarterback looking to separate themselves in search for significant playing time is the same for any backup; they are only one play away from being 'The Man' for the rest of the year. That fact is even more pointed with Washington's quarterbacks simply due to Price's health history.

And in that sense, Brown will be a vital cog in UW's machine because he now has to be considered a veteran. And it will be his development over the winter and spring that will answer the question as to whether he can fend off Miles and Lindquist and be that first butt off the bench in case of emergency. Brown is big enough and he's now in his third year of soaking in Sarkisian's system, so there's no excuse for him not to be ready to take the battle head on.

What to expect from Troy Williams:
The 'Double X' Factor could be Troy Williams, the true freshman that enrolled at UW in time to take part in spring football. Already coming to Montlake with a banged-up shoulder, there's a 99 percent belief that the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Williams will redshirt, but it's that one percent heading into spring that will answer definitively whether or not he'll finish behind Price, Brown, Miles, and Lindquist in the depth for 2013. Sarkisian had recruited Williams for three years and offered him as a sophomore, so there's no question Troy fits exactly what Sark wants in a QB; a dual-threat guy that will always look pass first and has the charisma and leadership qualities that will earn him loyalty and trust in the huddle and also on the sidelines.

If Williams doesn't redshirt, that will be the wost-case scenario all the way around for Washington. The silver lining is that it means Williams is all that; the downside is that Brown, Miles, and Lindquist will have all shown an inability to take their development to the next level, and that simply can't bode well for the Huskies as they move into the summer and fall. The likelihood of the Williams scenario coming true are infinitesimal in my opinion. The more likely case is that the depth likely finishes spring the way it started, with Price leading the charge with limited work and Brown, Miles, and Lindquist gutting it out for the backup spot.

What has to happen this spring:
Price, despite his poor 2012 is the known quantity. There is very little we don't know about the senior-to-be, his strengths and his weaknesses. March and April will be the revealing process for the next four quarterbacks in line and should give us a very good idea as to who is ready to accept the mantle of leadership and step into Price's shoes at a moment's notice.

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