The Washington Huskies believe they have a difference-making tailback in freshman Chris Polk.
They might also have good depth at the position, but its hard to tell because through the first half of this football season, the coaching staff has ridden Polk almost exclusively.
Through six games, he has carried 115 times, while four other tailbacks have combined for 16 carries.
Five of those came from Curtis Shaw, who joined the Huskies as a highly regarded prospect out of Stockton, Calif., but now finds himself adjusting for the first time to life on the bench.
Im just working hard, Shaw said after Tuesdays practice. (Im) just trying to do what they tell me to do: work on my game every day in practice, because obviously practice is my game.
Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier says thats exactly what the coaches tell every Husky who longs for more playing time.
Its about competition, and its about opportunity, Nussmeier said. Were going to play the best players, and we go by opportunity and competition and what happens in practice every day. We give everybody opportunities, and the guys who perform in practice are the guys who are going to play in the games. I think one of our best examples is you look at our wide receiver corps and the guys who have stepped up. When a guy has a great week of practice, were going to do all we can to get that guy the ball.
So far this season, the theory has worked in the passing game, where 11 different Huskies have receptions.
But the running game is being handled more like the quarterback position: something close to a one-man show.
(Polk) is our featured runner, Nussmeier said. Thats the bottom line: Hes our No. 1 tailback, and he continues to get better every week. As Ive said before, the skys the limit with that guy. Its a matter of him taking himself to the next level by his film study, his attention to detail, his footwork, his protection knowledge and those types of things.
Shaw arrived on campus with similar skys-the-limit potential. Playing at Lincoln High of Stockton, Rivals.com rated him as the No. 23 running back prospect in the nation and fourth-best in California.
He became one of seven true freshmen to play in 2007, spending the first part of the season at tailback (rushing seven times for 12 yards) before shifting to receiver (five receptions for 47 yards).
But he missed last season because of undisclosed family reasons. And he believes that absence might have cost him some familiarity with the new coaching staff, which didnt get to see him when they studied tapes from last season.
Now a sophomore, Shaw believes he was given a fair look in camp and that he continues to get a fair look. He agrees that Polk has earned his playing time.
Sometimes it just happens this way, Shaw said. Theres always someone better than you out there. Weve got a running back thats doing good right now, and hes hot. We just want to keep it going until the flame runs out - hopefully it doesnt. You roll with what goes. Right now were going with him because were getting good results: We just got a (win over Arizona). It doesnt really matter (who plays). As long as we win, it doesnt really matter. A W is a W no matter what.
The Huskies practiced in Dempsey Indoor on Tuesday and will do so again today. While cool and drizzly weather has moved into the Northwest, the forecast for Tempe, Ariz., calls for clear skies with a high temperature of 101 on Saturday when the Huskies visit Arizona State. ... Nick Wood practiced as the No. 1 left guard, in place of injured Gregory Christine (leg). ... Freshman tackle Drew Schaefer is getting increased playing time on the left side this week, in addition to his more familiar right tackle spot.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808
Players to carry the ball this season for the Washington Huskies:
Chris Polk, RB115486 4.2 1 41 81.0
Jake Locker, QB601993.345633.2
Johri Fogerson, RB8283.5175.6
Curtis Shaw, RB5193.8073.8
Willie Griffin, RB188.0082.0
Demitrius Bronson, RB242.0032.0
Jordan Polk, WR1-3-3.000-0.5