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.
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 schools 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 dont 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 Jakes 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, Im 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 Picketts school standard of 28, set in 2002.
That year, Pickett tossed 10 TD passes in Washingtons 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:
|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 quarterbacks 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 quarterbacks 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.
Prices Pass Efficiency rating is 176.6. Two points of intrigue here: Stanfords Andrew Luck, the Heisman Trophy favorite, sits at 173.4 (and eight TD passes, six fewer than Price). This wont get Price on this weeks Heisman Watch List, but its an impressive, early snapshot.
Also, BYUs 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 heres 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:
|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-12s 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 Huards 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-10s Offensive Player of the Year. Locker had his best completion percentage in 2009 at .584, which ranks 11th on the schools single-season list.
We like this number the best: 12.5 percent of Prices 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 Lockers 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):
|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 its too soon to anoint Price as the next big thing, its not too soon to say that for the first four games of any Husky season, no quarterback ever came up bigger.