Huskies Insider Blog

If Polk missed more time . . . then what at running back?

The no-brainer around UW camp is that sometime in September, tailback Chris Polk will return to full action.

Coach Steve Sarkisian announced Thursday that the star running back had arthroscopic surgery earlier in the morning, and will miss a minimum two weeks.

The timing of it puts Polk's status in doubt for the season opener Sept. 3 against FBS national champion Eastern Washington University.

But let's play hypothetical for a moment or two - what if Polk missed a month ... six weeks ... was out until November? What would the Huskies' lineup look like?

This is where the second Deontae Cooper knee injury was late spring really hamstrings the offense. He is the prototypical workhorse running back - and if good health permits, should be someday.

He is out for the season. Instead, Sarkisian said Callier, the sophomore from Downey, Calif. who rushed for 433 yards and a 5.6-yard carry average (albeit in more of a non-traditional tailback role) last season, would be line for the bulk of the carries if the season started today.

But how much would Johri Fogerson play (quite a bit on third downs and passing plays)? Bishop Sankey (redshirt year would certainly be used)? Dezden Petty?

SIZE* Callier is 5-foot-10, 200 pounds.* Fogerson is 6-1, 205* Sankey is 5-10, 193.* Petty is 5-11, 214.

Skinny: Of the three tailbacks, based purely on the eye test, Callier appears the sturdiest of the tailbacks, and has had a year in Sarkisian's system. The intriguing frame belongs to Petty, who came in as a tailback/fullback recruit and has settled in at tailback for the time being.

WORKLOAD CAPABILITYCallier and Sankey came into the UW with bulky rushing statistics from high school. Callier led California in 2009 with his 3,010 yards and 43 touchdowns, and had a few 40-plus carry games.

Sankey, too, toted the rock a mass amonut of times in racking up 2,518 yards as a senior at Gonzaga Prep (which is a heck of a lot bigger school than Warren High where Callier played). Sankey left as the Greater Spokane League's all-time leading rusher.

I also remember the spring of 2009 - Sarkisian's first spring - when Fogerson was moved over to running back, and so impressed onlookers in Polk's absence that a few mumbled he could be an every-down back.

Injuries, ailments, dings - whatever you want to call them - have a way of reshaping perspective. Fogerson had a nagging hip injury much of 2010. Callier had an ankle injury that carried into spring camp - and did not look all that great, especially in the Spring Game.

CONCLUSIONThe order has been set - Callier will be running with the No. 1 offense as the starter (and has been behind Polk anyway).

I think the coaching staff would HAVE to play this out by committee (assuming the run-pass ratio remains the same).

Granted, Callier has done more traditional tailback work - inside runs to go along with sweeps on the outside - since last season. Nothing I have seen convinces me he could be a 20-carry running back against good competition.

In 2009, Fogerson had 14 carries in nine games - for 46 yards. Does that sound like full-time starter to you?

There is a small congregation of fans who would beg Sarkisian to let Sankey get a shot at a bigger role. He has broken off some really explosive runs against the No. 2 defense. To me, he looks like a half-step slower version of Callier, but Sarkisian did mention after practice Wednesday that the Spokane product has "a little more downhill (running) mentality to his game."

Petty is intriguing, but as an incoming freshman just two weeks into his first fall camp, he is nowhere near-ready to make a run at it. Keep in mind - Sarkisian has sought a bigger short-yardage running back in the red zone, and this is that guy.

As far as fullbacks Jonathan Amosa and Nick Holt, Jr. seeing carries - I would suspect receiver Kasen Williams has a better shot on end-arounds than the duo would being lined up in the backfield.

The ratio: Callier gets 60 percent; Sankey gets 20 percent; Fogerson gets 15 percent and Petty gets 5 percent (and do not forget quarterback Keith Price will likely have some designed runs as well).