Huskies' New Spring: More No-Huddle, The Return of Tui
March 5, 2013
SEATTLE - Keith Price, without a knee brace for the first time a year or more, zipped a dart of a pass onto the hands of his receiver 20 yards downfield.
Marques Tuiasosopo loved it.
"That's IT!" the Huskies' last Rose Bowl quarterback from a dozen years ago yelled to his protégé Tuesday, the first on-field night of his new job as Washington's quarterbacks coach.
Then Price lofted a perfect strike to DiAndre Campbell long down the sidelines. That ended one of the many no-huddle drills Washington ran in the first spring practice amid rain drops and clanging from the round-the-clock renovation of Husky Stadium a few yards beyond the sideline of East Field.
Price did a spin and an elaborate slamming motion with his arm toward the turf to celebrate the throw.
Tuiasosopo did a fit.
"What are you DOING?!" he yelled into the center of the field. "Get back up field! Get going!"
Later, Tuiasosopo explained.
"Oh, I love the enthusiasm," he said. "But we're working on things. Regardless of what happens, as quarterbacks we've got to keep our poise on move on to the next play."
Even the old - Price, about to become a fifth-year senior, and Tuiasosopo, the Huskies' 2001 Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player - were new as UW football began spring ball.
"Oh, that was a fun first practice," coach Steve Sarkisian said.
As promised, the Dawgs were in all-out, go-go mode. To emphasize Sarkisian's intent to feature more no-huddle offense this year, the first team drill during the first practice of 2013 was a hurry-up, 11-on-11 scrimmage.
The upped tempo didn't stop until practice ended at 10:17 p.m.
"It's kind of a new offense," tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said. "It's a new deal."
Sarkisian counted more than 130 plays run by the offense in the 1-hour, 47-minute practice. That time includes individual drills and interim special-teams periods, so those 130 plays were run in closer to an hour.
"It's fun. It gets me going," said Price, who had some of his best success of an up-and-down 2012 operating UW's limited no-huddle playbook. "It fits our team.
"It's more playin', less thinkin'."
Price, who has gained some weight up to 206 pounds from last winter, said the late-game mistakes that cost the Huskies a big lead and ultimately the Apple Cup last November and the narrow defeat in the final seconds to Boise State in December's MAACO Bowl Las Vegas still gnaw at him. Motivate him, even, to get back to play more like he did in 2011 when he set school records with 33 touchdown passes and a completion rate of 66.9 percent.
"Every day," he said of how often he thinks of how the 7-6 season of 2012 ended. "I'm hungry, and I have a lot to prove to myself."
Of his 2012, Price said: "Oh, it was painful. I was trying to take on too much, trying to do it all myself. ... It's all about trust.
"I can feel the difference between this year and last year. I trust my guys."
Even though Sarkisian stated for about the 1,001st time this week "Keith Price is our starting quarterback," the coach and the quarterback he re-recruited with a phone call to Los Angeles the first day he became UW's coach job keep getting asked about a "competition" for the starting QB job.
"That's entertainment for you guys," Price said to reporters, chuckling. "It's kind of like you guys are pushing it.
"I know how good I am. I know I set a certain expectation - and I'm held to that now."
Price happily showed off the fact he wasn't wearing a brace on either knee, each of which he has sprained the last two seasons.
"I can actually pick my knee up now," he said, while doing it.
He says a return to the leg-weights training of two offseasons ago has made his back stronger and throwing easier, with his passes having more zip now.
"I feel a big difference," he said.
In his new position coach, too.
"It's perfect," Price said of having Tuiasosopo back for the first time since he was helping the since-departed Doug Nussmeier mentor Price. That was during the first two years of Price's Huskies career.
Tuiasosopo was an assistant strength coach when Sarkisian first arrived to lead Washington in 2009. He came back to UW in January after a couple of seasons as an offensive assistant at UCLA.
Tuesday night, he repeatedly shouted praise from the sideline to Price for his decision making on throws in the no-huddle.
When the quarterback checked down to more open receivers underneath, his new position coach yelled "Excellent!"
"It was fun to see him out here having fun, slingin' it around," Tuiasosopo said of Price.
When the fastbreak spring debut practice ended, Tuiasosopo gathered Price, Cyler Miles (who was the first to run the offense behind Price), Jeff Lindquist, Troy Williams and the quarterbacks around him in the center of the field. After instructing them, he stayed a while longer talking alone to Price. Those two were among the last Huskies off the field, past 10:30, while Sarkisian stayed to watch a couple dozen walk-ons try out for the team.
"I want them to grasp this system, let them know this is who we are now," Tuiasosopo said of his quarterbacks and the no-huddle system. "I want them to feel very comfortable with this tempo by the end of spring."
There were other new features besides Tuiasosopo and the added emphasis on the no-huddle.
Defensive backs coach Keith Heyward set a plastic, Little Tykes basketball hoop off the line of scrimmage. He had his half his guys play "wide receiver" trying to get off the line, with the cornerbacks jamming them and trying to keep the offensive players from slamming the football through the toy hoop.
And Seferian-Jenkins said he's lost 15 pounds, down to 270.
"My goal is to be the most complete football player, the most complete tight end, in the county," last year's only underclassman finalist for the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end said. "I want to be the best run blocker in the nation."
Some things stayed the same, such as grizzly, demanding offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto barking at his blockers for anything less than perfection.
Fourteen more spring practices and almost six months remain before Husky Stadium's unveiling at opener Aug. 31 against Boise State.