BY Steve Rudman 05:00PM 09/26/2011

Rudman: Keith Price In Context (It’s Amazing)

Any way you measure it, sophomore Keith Price is off to the best start of any quarterback in University of Washington football history — and touchdown passes are just a part of it.

Keith Price is off to the best start of any quarterback in University of Washington history. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

If I’d asked this question a month ago, I would have been forced to flee from men in white coats brandishing butterfly nets. Now, well, not so much. The question: if Jake Locker suddenly materialized on the University of Washington campus, who would be your starting quarterback? Locker or Keith Price?

No one disputes the impact Locker had during his four years in the UW program. He splattered his name all over the school’s record book and played his guts out before becoming the highest-drafted (first round, eighth overall) quarterback in UW history.

But gifted as Locker was, I don’t recall head coach Steve Sarkisian ever referring to him as “a freakin’ stud,” the precise phrase Sarkisian tossed out last weekend in citing the work of Jake’s replacement, sophomore Price.

Given that Price stood two inches shorter, weighed 35 fewer pounds than Locker, and had little experience, the preseason surmise was that the 2011 UW offense would belong to two-time 1,000-yard rusher Chris Polk, in large part to take the pressure off Price, who would simply be required to not screw things up.

Asked last Aug. 24 what he expected out of Price, Sarkisian hemmed, then said, “Oh, I’m curious, just like you are.”

Given his “freakin’ stud” tag, Sarkisian surely is now agog. Price has achieved such colorful status with the best performance over the first four games of a season by any quarterback in program history – and by any number of measurements, touchdown passes being the most obvious.

Price has flung 14, a total that ranks among the top 13 single-season marks in school history. With only a third of the schedule spent, Price is half way to matching Cody Pickett’s school standard of 28, set in 2002.

That year, Pickett tossed 10 TD passes in Washington’s first four games, making him and Price the only UW quarterbacks to reach double digits in TD passes after the opening quartet of contests.

Only two other quarterbacks threw as many as nine through the first four, Chris Chandler in 1986 (en route to 20) and Brock Huard in 1997 (en route to 25), and only three had as many as eight. Most TD passes through the first four games of a season:

Year Player Total Skinny
2011 Keith Price 14 4 vs. Hawaii, 4 at Nebraska
2002 Cody Pickett 10 Had 3 vs. San Jose St., 3 vs. Idaho
1986 Chris Chandler 9 Opened with 2 vs. Ohio State, 4 vs. BYU
1997 Brock Huard 9 Had 3 vs. BYU, 4 vs. San Diego State
1971 Sonny Sixkiller 8 Had 2 TDs in each of UW’s first four
1982 Steve Pelluer 8 Threw 3 TDs against San Diego State
1950 Don Heinrich 7 Set a UW mark with 4 vs. Kansas St.
1970 Sonny Sixkiller 7 Launched career with 3 at Michigan St.
1993 Damon Huard 7 Had 3 vs. Stanford, 3 vs. San Jose St.
2010 Jake Locker 7 4 vs. Syracuse, 3 to Jermaine Kearse

Pass Efficiency (the college equivalent of the NFL Passer Rating) is a statistic the NCAA uses to measure a quarterback’s throwing effectiveness, and involves computations in four categories: yards per pass attempt, pass completions per pass attempt, touchdowns per pass attempt, and interceptions per pass attempt.

Caveat: Pass Efficiency does not measure a quarterback’s overall ability, which includes leadership, huddle and clock management, play calling (Sarkisian calls UW plays) and a host of other of skills, which Price has grasped faster than anyone imagined he would.

Price’s Pass Efficiency rating is 176.6. Two points of intrigue here: Stanford’s Andrew Luck, the Heisman Trophy favorite, sits at 173.4 (and eight TD passes, six fewer than Price). This won’t get Price on this week’s Heisman Watch List, but it’s an impressive, early snapshot.

Also, BYU’s Jake Heaps, the former Skyline High star who famously snubbed the Huskies two years ago, currently sits at 100.5, having thrown three touchdowns against five interceptions.

Should Price maintain that 176.6 rating, he would obliterate the Husky single-season mark of 153.8 by Brock Huard in 1997. And here’s another number that pops: When Billy Joe Hobert led the Huskies to an undefeated season and a co-national championship in 1991, he tossed 24 TDs with a rating of 142.0.

Locker produced his highest rating as a junior in 2009 at 130.1, and finished his career at 119.1, among a myriad of reasons why NFL draftniks, in unanimous agreement as to Locker’s remarkable athleticism, never could see eye-to-eye on whether Locker was a first-round or a second-round pick, or whether he could ever become an accomplished NFL passer.

Pickett checked in only marginally better at 131.3 in 2002 when he threw the aforementioned 28 TDs, a mark that currently ranks seventh on UW’s single-season list. These are the top five one-year Passing Efficiency leaders in UW history, with Price shown for comparison purposes:

Year Player Rating Skinny
2011 Keith Price 176.6 Rating through UW’s first 4 games
1997 Brock Huard 153.8 Threw for 2,319 yards, 25 touchdowns
1950 Don Heinrich 143.6 UW’s first-ever All-America quarterback
1995 Damon Huard 143.6 Threw for 2,609 yards, 13 touchdowns
1991 Billy Joe Hobert 142.0 Led Huskies to an undefeated season
1977 Warren Moon 133.1 Named co-Pac-8 Player of the Year

Given his inexperience entering the season (Price made one start against Oregon in 2010), most expected Price to play conservatively as he mastered his position. He has been anything but. His fast feet, ability to elude the rush, and his remarkable accuracy (67 percent to Locker’s roughly 55.0), have transformed him into one of the Pac-12’s major playmakers, now a huge UW asset that no one, save perhaps Sarkisian and his assistants, anticipated.

Price is averaging 8.77 yards per attempt, with a long gain of 70, that occurring last Saturday when Price found Polk for the winning points in a 31-23 score over California. If Price sustains that 8.77, he would break Brock Huard’s school record, set in 1997, of 8.46 yards per attempt.  BTW: Locker had a career mark of 6.88.

Price has completed 75 of his 112 throws, or .670 percent. Steve Pelluer holds the single-season UW record of .650, a mark he set in 1983 when he was named the Pac-10’s Offensive Player of the Year. Locker had his best completion percentage in 2009 at .584, which ranks 11th on the school’s single-season list.

We like this number the best: 12.5 percent of Price’s 122 throws have resulted in touchdowns (3 vs. Eastern Washington, 4 vs. Hawaii, 4 vs. Nebraska, 3 vs. California). The top single-season mark in school history is 9.12 percent by Huard in 1997. The best percentage after that: 7.52 by Hobert in 1991.

No one could have dreamed that Locker’s raw replacement would convert 12.5 percent of his passes into touchdowns, especially when the icon that wore No. 10 converted just 4.91 percent of his career throws into scores.

Highest touchdown percentage in a single season (Price again included for comparison purposes):

Year Player TD Pct. Skinny
2011 Keith Price 12.50% 14 TD passes among his 112 throws
1997 Brock Huard 9.12% 25 touchdowns in 274 attempts
1991 Billy Joe Hobert 7.52% 24 touchdowns in his 319 attempts
1973 Chris Rowland 6.41% 5 of 15 TD passes came against Cal
1950 Don Heinrich 6.33% Made 221 throws, tallied 14 touchdowns
1986 Chris Chandler 6.29% 20 touchdowns in 318 pass attempts

While it’s too soon to anoint Price as the next big thing, it’s not too soon to say that for the first four games of any Husky season, no quarterback ever came up bigger.

[poll id="27"]


YourThoughts

  • Truckman0679

    Great read and interesting stuff. I’m sure Locker would love to come back this season and play behind this line and with these receivers, plus, and a huge plus, a real tight end. I don’t know whether his numbers would be this over the moon but it is a great subject to discuss over a few brewskis. 

    Thanks for a great article.

  • Truckman0679

    Great read and interesting stuff. I’m sure Locker would love to come back this season and play behind this line and with these receivers, plus, and a huge plus, a real tight end. I don’t know whether his numbers would be this over the moon but it is a great subject to discuss over a few brewskis. 

    Thanks for a great article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/darinpike Darin Pike

    Interesting…it will be fun to see if he can sustain those numbers playing USC, OR and Stanford instead of EWU and HI.

  • http://www.facebook.com/darinpike Darin Pike

    Interesting…it will be fun to see if he can sustain those numbers playing USC, OR and Stanford instead of EWU and HI.

  • Pixeldawg

    “12.5 percent of Price’s 122 throws have resulted in touchdowns (3 vs.
    Eastern Washington, 4 vs. Hawaii, 3 vs. Nebraska, 3 vs. California).”
    3+4+3+3 != 14
    He threw for 4 TDs vs. Nebraska as well as vs. Hawaii.

  • Pixeldawg

    “12.5 percent of Price’s 122 throws have resulted in touchdowns (3 vs.
    Eastern Washington, 4 vs. Hawaii, 3 vs. Nebraska, 3 vs. California).”
    3+4+3+3 != 14
    He threw for 4 TDs vs. Nebraska as well as vs. Hawaii.

  • Anonymous

    Montana may want to transfer. These numbers are remarkable!

  • 1coolguy

    Montana may want to transfer. These numbers are remarkable!

  • crumudgeon

    As much as I like the way Locker finished last year, I always had problems with his lack of touch and accuracy passing the ball.  We kept waiting for him to “finally get it”, but he never really did.  He became a better quarterback last year, but his passing was still average at best. They always said he had “a canon for an arm”, but canons are not the most accurate of weapons.  
    How many times did we see receivers as open as Polk was on his touchdown reception Saturday, only to see Jake sail the ball 4 or 5 yards over their heads?  But he made up for this with his athleticism and his leadership.  The Denver Broncos have a similar athlete on their roster who’s currently their 3rd string quarterback.The Huskies finally have a quarterback who’s throwing ability is not a liability.  In fact, his only liability seems to his physical size — compared to most quarterbacks, he is on the short side — around 6′ tall.  But when he is on the field the Husky offense seems to move almost effortlessly down the field.  Like Locker, he appears to possess those intangible qualities such as leadership.  He also smiles a lot too, which gives the play by play guys something to comment on when the camera pans the sidelines.  This might be the beginning of something special. 

  • crumudgeon

    As much as I like the way Locker finished last year, I always had problems with his lack of touch and accuracy passing the ball.  We kept waiting for him to “finally get it”, but he never really did.  He became a better quarterback last year, but his passing was still average at best. They always said he had “a canon for an arm”, but canons are not the most accurate of weapons.  
    How many times did we see receivers as open as Polk was on his touchdown reception Saturday, only to see Jake sail the ball 4 or 5 yards over their heads?  But he made up for this with his athleticism and his leadership.  The Denver Broncos have a similar athlete on their roster who’s currently their 3rd string quarterback.The Huskies finally have a quarterback who’s throwing ability is not a liability.  In fact, his only liability seems to his physical size — compared to most quarterbacks, he is on the short side — around 6′ tall.  But when he is on the field the Husky offense seems to move almost effortlessly down the field.  Like Locker, he appears to possess those intangible qualities such as leadership.  He also smiles a lot too, which gives the play by play guys something to comment on when the camera pans the sidelines.  This might be the beginning of something special. 

  • Lyssa

    The “Price” is right!! Go Keith! I love you cousin! Also, how come we can’t find his jersey anywhere? What’s up with that?

  • Lyssa

    The “Price” is right!! Go Keith! I love you cousin! Also, how come we can’t find his jersey anywhere? What’s up with that?

  • J4hansen

    I have always stated that Jake Locker was a great athete at UW, but not that great of QB in the sense of what that position is suppose to be.  And certainly he wouldn’t be Coach Sark’s first choice, if both showed up on the same day, as Jake came from a high school that ran a form of the Veer offense.  He was not a passing QB in high school.  Price, to my surprise, seems to be a more typical QB type and a much better passer, considering Nick Montana can’t pass him in the depth charts.  At 6’1″ I don’t feel Price is that short if you compare him to Drew Breeze and such QB’s in the NFL.  He could stand to put a few more pounds on the body though.

  • J4hansen

    I have always stated that Jake Locker was a great athete at UW, but not that great of QB in the sense of what that position is suppose to be.  And certainly he wouldn’t be Coach Sark’s first choice, if both showed up on the same day, as Jake came from a high school that ran a form of the Veer offense.  He was not a passing QB in high school.  Price, to my surprise, seems to be a more typical QB type and a much better passer, considering Nick Montana can’t pass him in the depth charts.  At 6’1″ I don’t feel Price is that short if you compare him to Drew Breeze and such QB’s in the NFL.  He could stand to put a few more pounds on the body though.

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  • Bigk9

    I just read the interview with Don James and they asked him about Keith Price vs. Jake Locker.
    The Dawgfather said both were excellent, but Price has far more targets that Jake ever had – primarily the 2 freshman All Americans, and a 6’6″ tight end. Locker never had a TE and there were no plays to that position, which made things a lot tougher for Jake.
    He also said Price is getting much better protection and time to throw the ball.
    Considering everything, they are both great QBs, but Price needs to hit the weight room. He seems fragile. Locker took far more punishment and kept going.

  • Bigk9

    I just read the interview with Don James and they asked him about Keith Price vs. Jake Locker.
    The Dawgfather said both were excellent, but Price has far more targets that Jake ever had – primarily the 2 freshman All Americans, and a 6’6″ tight end. Locker never had a TE and there were no plays to that position, which made things a lot tougher for Jake.
    He also said Price is getting much better protection and time to throw the ball.
    Considering everything, they are both great QBs, but Price needs to hit the weight room. He seems fragile. Locker took far more punishment and kept going.