Looking at the current roster, with minimal attention paid to the 2012 recruiting class.
Who They Lose
Only Chris Polk, maybe the best running back in UW history. On a play-by-play basis, Napolean Kaufman and Corey Dillon and probably a few others may have been more dangerous, but no one was as consistently dominating, punishing and dependable as Polk. He ran incredibly hard and was the perfect back to run behind a mediocre offensive line. I wish we could have seen what he would have done with some better running room.
Sarkisian has said several times that no one has better embodied the type of program he wants to run than Polk. He was mainly talking about his toughness and physicality, but I think it could be applied to Polk’s personality as well. He’s known as a talker, a little bit brash, but a huge competitor, teammate and leader. He will be sorely missed and remembered as a true Husky Legend.
Who Is Back
Jesse Callier- Junior
Bishop Sankey- Sophomore
FB Jonathan Amosa- Senior
FB Tim Tucker- Junior
There are other running backs on scholarship (see below), but Callier and Sankey are the two who received extensive playing time last year. Callier has received a good number of carries the last two years, mostly as a change of pace to Polk. He gets a lot of end-arounds and runs outside the tackles, and even runs the wildcat (WildDawg!) on occasion. Callier has been solid, if mostly unexciting. He doesn’t seem to quite have the electricity to make up for his apparent lack of physicality that keeps him from being more effective between the tackles. That being said, his chances have been limited and I’ll be curious to see what he can do if he gets more regular carries this year. He was a ridiculously productive high school player. I’m skeptical he can be an above-average starter, but he’s an excellent back-up at worst.
Sankey, about whom much has already been written, mainly due to his spurning of the Cougars, received more carries as 2011 went along and made the most of them. He seemed a bit more effective than Callier at running up the middle, and he showed a good burst of speed to match. Out of the two, he seems more likely to grab hold of the primary job. He did nothing to dampen my hopes for him and probably even raised them a few notches by forcing his way into some playing time.
At fullback, Amosa is a walk-on and Tucker is a converted linebacker. Both are solid blockers, but neither does a lot with the ball. The loss of Zach Fogerson to a medical retirement before the season really hurt. He was a threat as a runner as well as having the size to be a good blocker. Sark’s offense at USC made great use of the fullback (think Stanley Havili), but he has yet to have that type of player at UW. Amosa and Tucker are dependable guys, but neither is a running threat. If one could develop into a goal line back, that would be pretty helpful.
Who They’re Adding
Johri Fogerson has been around forever, but thanks to two consecutive years lost to injury, he’s back for one more year. He’s no game changer, but he provides a little bit of everything. I see his role being mostly a third down back, an experienced guy who can catch some passes out of the backfield. If healthy, he provides decent depth, which is needed on this squad.
Deontae Cooper seems like he’s been here almost as long as Fogerson, and we still haven’t seen him step on the field. Two seperate knee injuries have wiped out 2010 and then 2011 before they even started. Before the injuries, he was unquestionably the most talented back on the roster. The question now is whether he can ever get on the field and what he’ll look like once he does. It’s hard to imagine he’ll be more than a shell of his former self, at least right away. We really will have no idea until he gets into practice and a couple of games, however. If he can play and play at the level he was at coming out of high school, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him starting by the end of the season. Those are big ifs, though.
Dezden Petty was a 2011 recruit at fullback. I honestly am not sure if he played on special teams last year. I think it was a redshirt year, but I’m not positive. He sounds like he’s more in the mode of a playmaking fullback and could even see some minutes at tailback. I have no idea what the Huskies have in Petty, but I think he’ll see the field a decent amount this year, if for no other reason than a lack of depth.
Currently, the Dawgs have one running back commit, Erich Wilson, and he could end up on defense. They also have a linebacker, Ryan McDaniel, who could end up at running back. They have quite a few offers out to other guys, at RB and FB, but I’m not sure who they have a great shot at. Two guys are visiting this weekend, the awesome Psalm Wooching, who is tentatively committed to UCLA, and Brandon Wilson, from Louisiana. Wilson is interesting. He’s missed a lot of time with injury, but his film looks incredible. The fact that Sark dug him out of the south is a good sign, but there are no guarantees he even comes to UW. At any rate, I’m not sure this class gives the 2012 Huskies anything more than emergency depth and maybe a situational guy or two.
There’s good talent here, but filling in for Polk is a daunting task. This group is definitely a step back. Still, there’s lots of talent here, and an older offensive line will hopefully provide a little more running room (I think I’ve written that every offseason in history). Best case: Cooper comes back strong, Sankey and Callier take a big step forward, and the three battle for carries all year. Worst case: Cooper gets hurt again or just doesn’t have any explosiveness left, Sankey and Callier get hurt or have fumbling issues, and the running game drops down to 1,000 yards or so for the year. Honestly, I see the best case being a lot more likely. All of these guys are talented, so hopefully at least one will take the opportunity and run with it. You can bank on plenty of moments when Dawg fans will be wishing #1 was still lining up behind Price, however.