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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

March 9, 2009 at 9:26 PM

Breaking down the tailbacks

We continue with our admittedly often-interrupted pre-spring overview of the Husky football team with a look at the tailback spot.
RETURNING SCHOLARSHIP PLAYERS: Six — Willie Griffin, So.; Terrance Dailey, So.; Brandon Johnson, Jr.; David Freeman, So; Chris Polk, Fr.; Brandon Yakaboski, So.
KEY WALK-ONS — None.
INCOMING FRESHMENDemitrius Bronson.
PLAYERS LOST — None.
OTHER ADDITIONSCurtis Shaw, So. (back after a year’s absence).
RETURNING STARTERS — Five or none, depending how you classify it. Polk, Freeman, Griffin, Dailey and Johnson, in that order, all started at least one game last year, but none started more than four (Dailey) or really laid claim to the position long-term.
LOOK AHEAD — Just about every position will hold intrigue heading into the first spring under new coach Steve Sarkisian. But given the high-profile nature of this spot, and the seemingly talented players returning, this one will be especially interesting to watch. Sarkisian didn’t sign any new TBs in the Class of 2009, in part due to thinking that there were adequate numbers at the spot for now.
Indeed, UW doesn’t lack for bodies with the addition of Bronson — who signed in 2008 but wasn’t eligible last year — and the apparent return to this spot of Shaw, who sat out last year for personal reasons and will apparently get a first look at his old position of tailback.
Healthy bodies, however, is another matter.
Polk is coming off shoulder surgery and there’s some chatter he could move back to WR since that is the position he was slated to play when he originally committed to USC, where Sarkisian helped recruit him, though first he has to get healthy.
Dailey will miss the spring after shoulder surgery, and it’s uncertain exactly the prognosis on Freeman, who missed much of last season with ankle troubles. Yakaboski is also coming off knee surgery.
That leaves Johnson and Griffin, who along with Dailey were among the team’s top three rushers last year — Dailey had 338, Griffin 219 and Johnson 194.
Dailey and Freeman showed the most spark when they played last season — Freeman averaged 5.6 yards per carry and Dailey 4.5, including the longest run of the season for UW, a 59-yarder against Oregon State. But none ever really was consistent for long as UW averaged just 2.8 yards per carry last season
An especially intriguing guy to watch here could be Bronson. At a listed 5-10, 215, he’s the biggest of UW’s backs — and Sarkisian obviously grew to like having big backs at USC and has already made a statement about wanting to get more at UW with the recent addition of 6-2, 220 Melvin Davis for the Class of 2010.
Shaw also apparently is a lot bigger now than the 5-11, 190 he was last listed at UW, so maybe he is able to finally make this is permanent spot.
What will also be interesting to see is which backs fit in best with the more pro-style attack Sarkisian plans to use. Freeman, for instance, really seemed to thrive in the spread, working well with Jake Locker. Johnson has always seemed a better fit in a more conventional attack (remember the Cal game in 2007). The spring will obviously help determine a lot of that, and it will surprise no one if maybe there is some position shuffling after the spring among some of these players.
So who starts in 2009? Your guess is as good as mine (and I doubt anyone on Montlake really knows, either). With so much youth, none of it really proven, and so much uncertainty, this figures to be a spot that’s up for grabs until deep into fall camp.

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