Bishop Sankey won’t be the next Chris Polk.
Realistically, no running back wearing a Huskies jersey this spring should be expected to replicate the numbers of one of the best running backs in school history.
Yet, it is fair to expect good things from Sankey. After playing in 12 games and rushing for 187 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries as a true freshman and showing hints of big-play ability with a few nice runs, the former Gonzaga Prep standout has been a consistent performer this spring, earning plenty of duty with the first-team offense and showing enough versatility to be considered for the starting tailback’s job this fall.
“The plan going in was that he was going to get plenty of reps with the ones,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “And he’s just playing really well, to his credit. He’s running the ball well. He’s catching the ball out of the backfield extremely well. From a pass-protection standpoint, he’s doing an excellent job.”
Sankey has shown all the facets of being an every-down back. And while he will likely share the carries with Jesse Callier next season, it isn’t difficult to envision Sankey getting most of them. He’s shown an ability to run between the tackles and have success that Callier has not exhibited.
Sankey said he isn’t keeping track of the competition.
“I just try to go out there each day of practice and do what’s asked of me, control what I can control and just try to get better every day,” Sankey said.
Much of Sankey’s success relates to his great vision. He sees the openings and quickly gets through them. It’s something Sarkisian and his staff noticed about Sankey when they were recruiting him.
But Sankey needed patience to partner with his vision. He would see everything coming and just react too quickly.
“He’s a quick guy, and he wants to go make the run and make the play, and working on his patience and allowing the blocking to take place before making that cut is where we’ve seen the biggest strides in him running the ball,” Sarkisian said.
In high school, there isn’t so much need for patience when you are simply better than everyone. Sankey didn’t have to wait for blocks when he could just run away from people. It’s different at the major college level, where players are bigger, faster and stronger. You need blocks.
“There are a lot of transitions when you talk about just sheer running the ball between the tackles,” Sarkisian said. “That’s one of the keys to it. He’s really worked at it.”
There is no hesitation in Sankey. The uncertainty of last fall has been replaced by a loose confidence this spring.
“That’s one of Coach Sark’s things,” Sankey said. “He says, ‘When you know, you go,’ and that’s definitely one of the things that’s changed so far, especially in the spring. I just know more of the offense and what we’re trying to do schematically.”
Sankey has added 8 pounds of muscle in the offseason and is up to 200 pounds. He’d like to get to 205 pounds before fall to help take some of the physical pounding of a lot of carries.
Will he get them this fall? If he continues to progress at this rate, it seems likely.
“I feel like I have the ability to be an all-around type back, make moves in the open field – explosive and elusive,” Sankey said. “I think I bring a lot of things to the table that make me an all-around running back.”
True freshman running back Ryan McDaniel, who enrolled early this spring, is recovering from offseason knee surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and he had another surgery a few a days ago. Sarkisian said it was just a minor procedure to “clean up some things” in the knee. Defensive end Talia Crichton did not dress for practice Monday after suffering a minor knee sprain during Saturday’s scrimmage. Redshirt freshman Jarett Finau worked as the starting strong-side defensive end with Crichton out. Also not suited up were center Drew Schaefer (knee) and linebacker Scott Lawyer (groin). Cornerback Greg Ducre, who missed two practices with a concussion, practiced Monday but wore a red no-contact jersey. Defensive tackle Danny Shelton drew the ire of Sarkisian during an 11-on-11 drill when he basically tackled Callier. Sarkisian yelled at Shelton to get off the field, and the two exchanged a few words. Shelton stormed out of the practice facility. But Hau’oli Jamora and Crichton brought him back. After doing some punishment laps with conditioning coach Ivan Lewis, Shelton was back with the first-team defense. “It’s just football,” Sarkisian said of the incident. Walk-on kicker Eric Nothstein of Graham-Kapowsin High School went 5-for-5 in one special teams session. During 11-on-11 drills, he missed a 40-yarder, but came back to make a 25-yarder to win the overtime session for the offense and end practice.
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