Deontae Cooper, a promising tailback who missed all of last season with an ACL injury to his left knee, will miss the entire 2011 season after recently re-injuring the same knee, UW coach Steve Sarkisian said today.
Sarkisian said that Cooper was injured recently in “a simple conditioning drill,” saying it was a “non-contact side shuffle.” Cooper, who was the second-leading rusher in the state of California as a senior in 2009 at Citrus Hill High in Perris, had surgery Wednesday night.
Cooper (pictured in a Mark Harrison photo) was one of the marquee players in UW’s Class of 2010, Sarkisian’s first full class at UW, and enrolled in time for spring ball in 2010, marking himself as a future star with a number of highlight-reel runs. But he was injured midway through fall camp in Aug., 2010 and sat out last season.
He returned in the spring to do some limited non-contact work and appeared on pace to return before the recent setback. Sarkisian, however, said the prospects remain good that Cooper will eventually be able to play for UW.
“The doctors are confident that the surgery went well and he will be able to rehab it (and return to football),” Sarkisian said.
Cooper’s loss provides a double hit at the running back spot as Sarkisian also said that sophomore fullback Zach Fogerson will be forced to give up football due to continuing issues with a concussion first suffered in the spring.
“He’s a young player that showed a lot of promise,” Sarkisian said of Fogerson, the younger brother of senior tailback Johri Fogerson, who was among the most highly-rated players at his position as a senior at O’Dea High in 2009. “He just never got a chance to get it going.”
Sarkisian also said that defensive tackle Chris Robinson, whose chronic knee issues resurfaced in the spring, will also have to give up football. The players will be able to remain in school on medical scholarships.
In the good news department, Sarkisian said that every incoming freshmen is enrolled in the school’s summer L.E.A.P program and will be eligible to play in 2011.
For the moment, however, that is tempered by the news of the loss of Cooper and Zach Fogerson, which puts a severe hit on the team’s depth at running back.
It also helps explain why the Huskies made a recent run to bring in Kyle Lewis, who is expected to enroll in the L.E.A.P program next week and play running back for the Huskies beginning this fall. Sarkisian can’t talk yet about Lewis but Lewis told Dawgman.com on Wednesday he anticipates becoming a Husky next week. Since Lewis never signed a letter-of-intent — he had committed to UCLA after signing day — he can come to UW and be immediately eligible.
UW has returning 1,000-yard rusher Chris Polk as its starting tailback, and sophomore Jesse Callier will return as his backup. Johri Fogerson may also provide depth, though Sarkisian said there are still some issues with his leg injuries that slowed him at times in the spring. UW signed two freshmen running backs for the Class of 2011 — Bishop Sankey and Dezden Petty — and each now is a step closer to being called upon in 2011.
“Obviously we will have to get a good gauge on Bishop Sankey and what he can bring, and have to get a gauge on Johri and his health and what he can bring, and then the addition of Dezden Petty and what he can bring,” Sarkisian said.
“And then we will have to assess our roster and see if potentially there is anybody to move there and add depth to that position, so maybe there will be some maneuvering there. But a lot of that stuff won’t take place until camp begins (on Aug. 8).”
Robinson projected as a backup at defensive tackle, potentially able to add valuable depth at what is a thin spot overall for the Huskies. His loss only increases the odds that true freshman Danny Shelton of Auburn High will play this season.
However, Sarkisian said the Huskies should be able to count on some production this year from sophomore Semisi Tokolahi, who suffered a broken and dislocated ankle in the Apple Cup. Sarkisian said he likely won’t be 100 percent for the beginning of the season, saying nerve damage has continued to be an issue. But he said recent reports on his recovery are encouraging and that he should be able to return this year. “To have him back when Pac-12 play kicks off would be huge,” Sarkisian said.
In the better news department, Sarkisian said all other players who were limited in the spring are on pace to return, other than CB Adam Long, who is also recovering from an ACL injury and whose 2011 season remains in jeopardy.
That group includes left tackle Senio Kelemete, who battled a foot injury throughout spring.
“I saw Senio yesterday and he felt great, still feels great, so that’s great news,” Sarkisian said.
That group also includes the likes of safety Taz Stevenson and linebackers Princeton Fuimaono and Cooper Pelluer, all of whom are on track to be ready to go when camp begins, Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian also said that JC transfer CB Antavius Sims is not participating in the L.E.A.P. program, a one-month course designed to help acclimate newcomers for college, but that he does appear on pace to being eligible in time for fall camp.
“He should be here for training camp,” Sarkisian said. “He’s still got some work to do with a couple of classes (at Ventura, Calif., CC) but hopefully he is here for training camp.”
Also, Picture Day has been set for Aug. 21, a Sunday.