By the looks of it, No. 5 (Nick Montana) was getting most of the fanfare Tuesday on the first day of the UW’s spring camp.
And No. 17 (Keith Price) was clearly the more refined product.
At the outset of the five-week camp, coach Steve Sarkisian noted the competition between Price and Montana for the spot to back up star Jake Locker would be eventful and exciting – and a “battle that could go on for years.”
Even in day one, it was worth monitoring (audio of Price and UW receiver Jermaine Kearse below).
Price should be further along. He’s a redshirt freshman. He’s worked extensively with quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier in the offseason to alter his throwing motion.
That work was evident Tuesday. Price’s throwing mechanics were fluid and sharp – and also shortened in an attempt to get the ball out of his hands more quickly.
“(Last season), the ball was getting there, but the mechanics of my release were longer,” Price said. “Now the ball is spinning (correctly) … out of my hands, I’m throwing off the right fingers, and my release isn’t as high, so you can tell my mechanics have changed a lot.”
Montana has to know he’s behind early in this race. He just enrolled at the UW on Monday, leaving Oaks Christian Academy a semester early.
His talent is still raw in many regards. But what Sarkisian was impressed with Tuesday was the other stuff – the newcomer’s intangibles.
“Not a bad first day,” the second-year UW coach said. “I’m always nervous for guys in their first college practice. One of the things I’m most proud of was he didn’t fumble a snap. Most freshman quarterbacks, they fumble two, three or four snaps.
“Another thing i was really proud of him, I loved his presence in the huddle. I loved his presence at the line of scrimmage. He was confident. Obviously (he has) an enormous amount of work to do, but i loved what he brought from a stature standpoint.”
Other first-day observations:
• Another spectacle was the arrival of forward-turned-defensive end Clarence Trent, fresh off the UW men’s basketball team.
Apparently, the idea of Trent trying out for football – and switching his scholarship – had been floated around between Sarkisian and Huskies basketball coach Lorenzo Romar since last fall.
It was only since the UW’s loss to West Virginia in the NCAA tournament that the two coaches revisited the idea, and worked out the semantics of it in the past couple days with school officials.
Trent did play football as a ninth grader at River Ridge High School in 2005, but hasn’t since. And it showed Tuesday as he was taken out by blockers on almost every play.
“He’s what we’re looking for (in body type),” Sarkisian said. “There’s just a lot of work to be done.”
• There were guys in red, so to speak, on the first day.
Running back Chris Polk (shoulder), offensive tackle Cody Habben (shoulder) and safety Victor Aiyewa (shoulder) all did light individual work wearing the designated red jersey for injured players. None of them will take part in any team drills this spring.
“We’re not going to risk that shoulder (of Polk’s) at all,” Sarkisian said. “I want him to get back to 100 percent. He’ll get his drill work done, you might see him get into 7-on-7 stuff, but he won’t get into any team or contact stuff.”
Cornerback Desmond Trufant (groin) did some light jogging on the sideline. He could return later in camp.
• New year, new offensive line.
As expected, Drew Schaefer took over at center, shifting Ryan Tolar to left guard. Senio Kelemete was at left guard. Mykenna Ikehara manned right guard, And in Habben’s absence, Skyler Fancher was at right tackle.
“My first impression, (the new combination) felt good. But we’re in underwear. Until we put all the armor on, I don’t really know,” Sarkisian said. “But it felt good. I felt the communication was really good. I don’t feel like we were turning (defensive) guys loose in the backfield. That, to me, was the biggest difference from this first practice, to last year’s first practice. I felt like last year, we were turning guys loose. Guys were free in the backfield. We were getting sacked like crazy. This year, it felt like we were in sync. The communication was good up front. That’s what you get when you have veteran guys.”
• One of tight end Kavario Middleton’s additional responsibilities in 2010? Backing up long-snapper Brendan Lopez.
The Lakes High product was introduced to it in spots last season, but by the looks of it Tuesday, he has a ways to go. One of his snaps went way over the head of linebacker Tim Tucker.
• Alvin Logan might be finding a home in his third position group – the linebackers.
Much of his time Tuesday was spent playing outside linebacker with the No. 1 defense. He’s also expected to line up as a stand-up defensive end.
• The defense stripped running back Demitrius Bronson twice on the first day of practice, prompting Sarkisian to reiterate the importance of ball security.
“Jordan (Wallace) had a great strip. Nate Williams had a great strip today. I like what they’re bringing,” Sarkisian said. “It doesn’t make me feel good about our backs putting the ball on the ground today.”
• At the end of practice, safety Nate Fellner was kicked out after an unsportsmanlike penalty.
“It would have been a 15-yard personal foul penalty and that’s not OK,” Sarkisian said. “We’ll learn. You get ejected from practice when you take one of those.”
NOTES: Linebacker Donald Butler, expected to be a late-round selection at next month’s NFL Draft, attended practice Tuesday. … About 100 spectators showed up for the first day of spring ball. … Earlier in the day, Sarkisian and his staff did consider moving the first spring workout indoors to the Dempsey Center because of windy and cool conditions. But since it did not rain, he went on with the original plan. … The team’s first full-pad practice will be next Tuesday.