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April 28, 2003
Two years ago, while the attention was on the "Elite" QB?s of the West Coast, a (then) nationally unknown player out of Garfield high school did something no other Washington prospect has ever done?he won the MVP award at the USC camp--Gifted with quick footwork and incredible speed, Isaiah Stanback has the potential to be one of the best athletes to ever grace the field at Montlake.
During Saturday?s annual spring game, fans caught glimpses of what could be a very bright future indeed...
Ranked as high as the 5th quarterback in the nation during 2002 recruiting season, Stanback was heavily recruited coming out of high school. USC, UCLA, Nebraska, Washington State, and Tennessee were among the types of programs that went after Stanback along with Washington, and for good reason.
Standing at 6?3?? with 4.4 speed, he is a threat both in the air and on the ground. During his senior season at Garfield High School in Seattle, Stanback threw for 1628 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning him all-King County conference honors. And that was on a team where he received relatively no protection from his offensive line?Isaiah spent most of his time running to avoid being crushed by defenders in the absence of any pass protection.
With his obvious talents at the quarterback position, it was a surprise to many fans when the local media conjectured that Stanback may be moved to WR to give some depth to the thin position. Often times, this is the beginning of the end for a quarterback.
Stanback certainly didn?t seem to like the idea.
"I don?t really pay attention to [the media]; I came here to play quarterback, and that?s what I?m trying to do," Stanback told Realdawg.com following Saturday?s game. "I?m focusing on quarterback."
But even that position isn?t without drama. One of the major questions facing the 2003 Husky team was finding a back-up to record setting senior quarterback Cody Pickett. In the mix are both Stanback and redshirt sophomore Casey Paus. Each player has shown promising signs of improvement over the course of spring practice. Paus is a ?classic? drop back style passer who can complete the intermediate passes with ease, but appears to struggle if there is a need to scramble. Scrambling, however, seems to be Stanback?s forte. A Stanback scramble resulted in a 16 yard touchdown Saturday.
"Right now I?m just trying to stay in the pocket longer ? normally I just take off and run under pressure, but now I?m sitting there and looking for receivers," Stanback said.
With spring practice coming to a close, there still seems to be no clear answer to the quarterback question. Both QBs had their highs and lows during the spring game; both overthrowing receivers and making some bad decisions. UW Head Coach Rick Neuheisel left the question up in the air after the scrimmage, saying "I think it was a great day for Isaiah, but that?s not to take anything away from Casey, I think he did some nice things ? We?ll see how it goes in the fall."
The competition doesn?t seem to bother Stanback though.
"I try not to pay attention to who?s going to win between me and Casey, I?m just trying to go out and learn. He?s been here a year and knows a lot more than I do."
Learning seems to be Stanback?s top priority.
"You can watch as much tape as your want to, but when you?re out there in the game, that?s the only time that you are really going to learn."
And there still is much to be done. With flashes of brilliance during the option came some poor decisions, especially erratic forward pitch to Scott Ballew, who almost lost the ball. "It was a bad read; it was a last minute decision. I was about to get hit, and as soon as I pitched it I thought ?Oh, shoot.? It?s just another thing I have to go back and try to correct."
Isaiah Stanback will certainly be an interesting player to follow in the future. He is athletic, strong, and brings enthusiasm to a team that, after last season, seems to need it. Soon, Washington fans may be treated to the same exciting option plays they became accustomed to during Marques Tuiasosopo?s tenure as a Husky.
But Stanback knows there is a lot of work ahead.
"I?m my toughest critic," he said, "I know what needs to get done."