One UW player it’s easy to say looks a lot better this spring than he has in previous springs is tailback Chris Polk (pictured above in a Dean Rutz photo scoring in the Holiday Bowl).
That’s for the simple reason that this is the first spring since 2008 in which he’s been available for all drills.
Polk, if you remember, was rehabbing from shoulder surgeries the last two springs. The only previous UW spring in which he has participated was 2008, the final year of the Tyrone Willingham era, when Polk enrolled early and spent his time at receiver.
That all came back to Polk on Tuesday, when the Huskies put on the pads for the first time this spring and he was out there with everybody else.
“It feels a little weird actually having a spring practice and just getting a feel for my pads and just running and being physical,” he said. “It’s been two years since I did a spring practice, so it feels kind of weird. But I’m glad. I’d rather be playing than watching any day.”
Polk is one of the leading returning rushers in the nation after gaining 1,415 yards a year ago, second-most for one season in UW history. He decided against declaring for the NFL Draft to return for a junior season that will likely be his last at UW (the early enrolling in 2008 has helped put him on track to earn his degree in the upcoming academic year).
Polk had two goals for this off-season — to slim down a bit from the high of 227 last season (though he was listed at 214) and continue to expand his role in Washington’s passing game.
Polk said the first goal has been accomplished as he said he’s lost about 10 pounds. Tuesday was his first chance to run in a full-pads, full-contact practice with the decreased weight, and he said he liked the results.
“I feel better when I move andIi feel faster,” he said. “And I still have the same strength, so I’m really excited to see how that will turn out when games comes, or even scrimmages.”
That chance may come Saturday when UW is expected to hold its first significant scrimmage of the spring at 11 a.m. at Husky Stadium.
Polk has been a solid receiver out of the backfield with the Huskies, catching 48 passes. But UW coach Steve Sarkisian wants to see if Polk can expand that role and improve on all aspects of it, in part with an eye on his future.
And while early in that progression, Sarkisian says so far, so good.
“I think it’s been good,” he said. “Through it all, Chris has a real want-to about that aspect of the game. When you have a want-to for something, it comes a little easier. I think he wants to do that stuff. I’ve been really impressed with his route-running. I’ll have to look at the film (from Tuesday’s practice) to see how he was in pass protection, but without a doubt his route-running and catching the ball out of the backfield and in check-down situations has really increased.”