We’ll continue our position overviews with one of the more intriguing spots on the roster heading into the 2012 season — running back.
There has been no real suspense at this position of late as Chris Polk has had a stranglehold on the tailback spot the last three seasons.
In fact, while there was sometimes consternation voiced by fans that the Huskies weren’t using Polk enough, the facts show that the Huskies of the last three years leaned on Polk more than any UW team has ever leaned on a running back over a similar period.
Of UW’s 1,323 rushing attempts the last three years, Polk got 779 of them, 58.8 percent. The only other running back in UW history to rush for 1,000 or more yards in three straight seasons was Napoleon Kaufman, who also was UW’s career leader in attempts before Polk came along. Kaufman got 663 out of 1,452 available attempts in 1992, 1993 and 1994, 45.6 percent.
In one more comparison showing how much UW relied on Polk, consider the one season spent at Washington by Corey Dillon, probably the best by a running back in school history.
Dillon got 301 attempts that season, the most for a Husky —- Polk is now second with the 293 he got in 2011. But even Dillon got a slightly lower percentage of the carries in that season than Polk got over the last three, 55.9 percent of Washington’s (538 total).
All of which is a statistical way of attempting to show that there may be no more pressing issue for the Huskies in 2012 than replacing Polk’s production, durability and versatility — his receiving (he finished with 31 receptions for 332 yards last year) an increasingly dangerous part of the offense as 2011 progressed.
Before going further,, let’s take a look at the roster at the two running back spots:
Jesse Callier, 5-10, 200, Jr.
Bishop Sankey, 5-10, 193,, So.
Deontae Cooper, 6-0, 199, So.
Johri Fogerson, 6-1, 205, Sr.
Erich Wilson II, 6-1, 185, Fr.
— The roster also includes walk-ons Cole Sager (5-10, 203, Sr.) and Willis Wilson (5-9, 191, So.).
Tim Tucker, 6-1, 240, Jr.
Jonathon Amosa, 5-11, 230, Sr.
Dezden Petty, 5-11, 214, RFr.
Psalm Wooching, 6-3, 217, Fr.
— The roster also includes walk-on Travon Brooks (6-2, 246, RFr.).
As the stats above indicate, it’s hard to fathom that this won’t be more of a position-by-committee in 2012 than it has been the last three years.
Callier (pictured in a John Lok photo) was the main backup last year (rushing for 260 yards on 47 carries) and seems likely to be atop the depth chart entering the spring. But he’ll be pushed hard by Sankey, who rushed for 187 yards on 28 carries (all coming in the last 10 games). Both Callier (5.3) and Sankey (6.7) had good per-carry averages last year. But each was obviously called on almost solely for situational carries. While there’s reason for optimism that each could handle it, the jury is still out until either shows they can carry the ball 25 times a game and get the kind of consistent yards, against virtually any defense, that Polk did.
Cooper and Fogerson are huge X-factors heading into 2012, each coming off knee injuries but with UW coaches optimistic that each will be ready for fall camp (here are details on those from a story in December). Cooper, in particular, showed star potential in 2010 before the first of his two knee injuries and if he can return to that form it could change greatly the look of UW’s running back spot. Before being injured last year, Fogerson was earning a role as a third-down-type back that could be even more vital this year with Polk gone.
Wilson is the one true tailback in the Class of 2012, and depending on his progress, and the health of Fogerson and Cooper, could emerge quickly in the rotation.
UW has two players returning at fullback who played substantially last year in Tucker and Amosa. Amosa started at the beginning of the season before giving way to Tucker, a converted linebacker. Amosa then was the fullback for the Alamo Bowl when Tucker was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Neither, though, was a huge factor in the offense — neither got a carry last season and the two combined for three receptions (though Amosa can boast of leading the nation in touchdowns-per-catch with one reception good for a score in the opener against Eastern Washington).
The Huskies would undoubtedly like to get more production out of the fullback spot, especially now with Polk gone, and Petty and Wooching will surely be given lots of opportunity to work their way into the rotation. As can be said for just about everybody at running back this year.