Coach Steve Sarkisian made it tough on his young quarterbacks Saturday. He had them running the no-huddle attack at a frantic pace; had them facing pressure defenses and tight coverages. On top of that, he put some pressure on them with some critical commentary. When Montana almost threw an interception on the first pass of the scrimmage, Sarkisian worked up a lather. It established the tempo and level of expectation for the entire practice.
“I want to make sure our energy level is right and where it needs to be,” Sarkisian said. “Sometimes that has to come from me to set that tone.”
He added: “I like to create a little bit of chaos for them and see who responds, who can remain focused yet upbeat and energetic, and who gets frazzled,” Sarkisian said. “It’s a constant evaluation.”
He said he likes the progress the two are making, but thought Saturday’s action featured more mental mistakes than they’d been having.
Early for any big judgments, especially in the case of Montana, but from the sidelines, it looks as if Price has a definite edge at this point – as he probably should. He’s more polished, comfortable and consistent, and has better zip and flight on his passes. He’s quick and nifty, too, when he gets pressured out of the pocket.
Montana sometimes looks better when the pressure is on in live situations than he does in unhurried passing drills. Several times, when things broke down, he bought time and found receivers for nice gains. He also had several passes that should have been intercepted.
Price said he’s focusing on “playing faster in my mind,” while Montana said he needs the most improvement on defensive recognition.
What both are quickly learning is the value of a group of big tight ends with good hands. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Michael Hartvigson and Evan Hudson all had nice catches on Saturday.
Seferian-Jenkins continues to be a hot topic as he makes catch after catch despite being an early-admit freshman who has been on campus only two weeks. Montana said “… he’s ridiculous; it’s hard to throw a bad ball to him, he’s such a big target.” He’s not just big, but he has an impressive catch radius, being able to go high to get the balls that good tight ends normally do, but he’s also able to get down and pull in the ones below the knee that can be tough for big receivers.
A physical, sure-handed tight end can be “a quarterback’s best friend,” Sarkisian said, especially in the blustery conditions common at Husky Stadium, where long passes to wide receivers easily can get blown off target.
–Practice notes: Left tackle Senio Kelemete went to the sidelines early and had a protective boot put on his right foot. The senior has been dealing with a pulled plantar fascia. Sarkisian said the injury “popped” on Saturday, which he said is an expected and welcomed part of the healing process. He could not speculate on how long it will slow Kelemete.
–Saturday’s work on the no-huddle offense was also good for the Husky defense, Sarkisian said, as it is good exposure to the kind of pace used so often by other teams in the Pacific-10 Conference.
–Junior cornerback Desmond Trufant made a number of nice pass breakups, and had one play that looked ready to be turned into an interception return for a touchdown. He dropped it however. Long after practice was finished, Trufant was still working on his hands, taking passes from the machine that fires one after another at him.