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Associated Press
Washington quarterback Keith Price in action against California in an NCAA football game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011, in Seattle.

SALT LAKE CITY — So much for Washington slipping a bit without quarterback Jake Locker. Sophomore Keith Price has stepped right in for the first-round NFL draft pick.

"We're watching all of last year's tapes and this year's tapes and they haven't missed a beat," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said as the Utes (2-1, 0-1) prepare for Saturday's homecoming game against the Huskies (3-1, 1-0) at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Price enters the contest as the nation's co-leader in touchdown passes with 14. His pass efficiency rating of 176.6 ranks ninth in the country.

"He's a great player and he's having an outstanding year so far," Whittingham said. "He makes plays. That's the bottom line with Price."

The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder from Compton, Calif., has completed 75-of-112 passes for 983 yards, making touchdown tosses to seven receivers.

Whittingham said that Price is particularly effective in off-rhythm situations. When protection breaks down he leaves the pocket and just makes something happen.

"His strongest attribute is the ability to make plays when there's not one there to be made," Whittingham continued. "He finds a way to make a play."

The Utes are well aware of Price's abilities.

"He's very mobile. He keeps plays alive and they have some good wideouts," said Utah cornerback Conroy Black. "We're going to have our hands full this weekend."

It may be a two-way street. Price will be facing the Pac-12's top pass efficiency defense (114.7 rating).

Utah linebacker Brian Blechen, who is the conference's co-leader in interceptions (0.67 per game), is looking forward to the meeting.

"I love playing a good quarterback. If I was a quarterback, I would like to be a quarterback like him," Blechen said. "So getting to play against him and stuff, it'll be an awesome challenge trying to stop him."

Price, he explained, has a great arm and is a good runner as well.

"He presents pretty much everything that a quarterback can present," said Blechen, who added that Price makes smart decisions and just performs. "You've got to do your job the whole time — always have your eyes on him or the ball — because until that whistle blows, he'll do whatever he can to make plays."

Price is dangerous, Whittingham acknowledged, and the Utes must try to keep him in the pocket.

"It's going to have to be a team effort," he said, because of the various coverages that will be employed.

Defensive end Joe Kruger considers it a containment issue because of Price's ability to scramble and makes plays when he does.

"He's a really good quarterback," Kruger said. "We just need to be able to contain him on both sides, keep him in the pocket and keep pressure on him."

Price was once a Ute recruit

SALT LAKE CITY — Washington quarterback Keith Price isn't an unknown commodity to the Utah coaching staff. They got their first look at him a couple of years ago during his prep days at St. John Bosco in Southern California.

"We recruited him way back in high school and I kind of lost track of him after that when we didn't get him," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "So I can't tell you much about him other than what I see on tape right now, which is good stuff."

Pac-12 home opener

Washington (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) at Utah (2-1, 0-1)

Saturday, 5 p.m.

Rice-Eccles Stadium

TV: ROOT (FSN) Radio: 700 AM

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Twitter: @DirkFacer