As the season closed, Washington relied more on its running attack. It will do the same next year.
All week here at Sportspress Northwest, we’ll breakdown the different units that comprise the Washington football team. A look back and a look forward for the (gasp!) 7-6 Huskies of 2010. Let’s take a look at the running backs:
What was thought prior to the season: Chris Polk would continue his bruising running; Johri Fogerson would be a pass-catching threat out of the backfield; Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier would receive spot carries.
What we saw during the season: Polk was a stud. All of his numbers from the previous season went up. His 5.4 yards per carry was indicative of his continuing forward movement. Polk always appeared to finish runs moving ahead, rarely pushed back. His powerful season was bolstered by Callier’s contributions, most notably from the fly sweep. Callier averaged 5.6 yards per carry because Steve Sarkisian often put the running back into edge/space situations where his speed was a benefit. Cooper tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during fall camp. He was lost for the year. But with Polk and Callier, bolstered by quarterback Jake Locker, Washington became a potent rushing team during the end of the year. During the season-ending four-game winning streak, Washington averaged 237 rushing yards per game.
What’s next for this group: Polk’s decision is the first concern. He has to decide by Saturday if he will declare for the NFL draft. As his yards piled up, so did his draft notice. Should Polk return, and Sarkisian said last week he thinks Polk will, the redshirt junior will be the focus of the offense. Sarkisian also said Cooper should be ready to play in the fall. In spring practice last year and into the start of 2010 fall practice, Cooper, who enrolled early, looked explosive. He was ahead of Callier on the depth chart and pushing Polk for carries.
How much he recovers will be important for Washington. It not only lost Cooper’s backfield services last season, but he was expected to contribute by returning kickoffs. Fogerson should be recovered from a hip injury that caused him to miss the final 12 games of the season after playing in the opener. Whether he can claim the 2010 season as a medical redshirt year is still up in the air.
If Polk returns, Washington should have one of the strongest running attacks in the conference. It has a power back in Polk, a speed guy in Callier, an explosive runner in Cooper and a quality receiver out of the backfield in Fogerson.