When the 2009 season began, the Washington coaching staff spoke of the possibility of a rotation of running backs. Heralded recruit Chris Polk, who was granted a medical redshirt after getting hurt early in the year in ’08, appeared to be the front runner.
Still the competition appeared to be tight coming out of spring with no shortage of bodies to compete for the spot.
Along with Polk the Huskies had returning sophomores in Johri Fogerson, Willie Griffin, and Curtuis Shaw. Joining the group was true freshman Demitruis Bronson.
By the time the opening kickoff came around, Polk had been established as the feature back, and has yet to relinquish the role going into the last two games of the season.
Polk has dominated the percentage of carries with 179 thus far at a 5.0 yard per carry rate. The next leading running back in attempts is the freshman Demitruis Bronson who has only rushed 16 times getting 3.6 YPC. Fogerson and Shaw also have a few rushing attempts with 14 and five respectively. Fogerson has found more of a niche on the team as a receiver though, contributing 17 receptions for 191 yards.
The second leading rusher on the team in both attempts and yards is mobile quarterback Jake Locker, despite the coaching staff’s increased focus on being a pocket passer, and has 88 carries in total.
With two games left in the season, Polk appears to be in good position to gain 1,000 yards in his first full season, and with three years of eligibility left, looks to be the featured back for the next few years. Although that is far from a given with the amount of young backs to push him, and some impressive recruits coming in to add even more depth.
Although national signing day is a ways away, the Huskies have verbal commits from three running backs thus far for the 2010 class. Headlining the group is four star recruit Deontae Cooper out of Citrus Hill High School in Perris, California. Cooper is regarded a four star by both Scout.com and Rivals.com recruiting services.
Cooper is a 6'0" 205 pound running back who has been a workhorse in high school, setting the California state record with 59 carries for 412 yards and four TDs in a game this September.
As a junior he was the states leading rushing with 2,953 and second in touchdowns with 47. He is an elusive back with 4.47 40 time speed, and good hands, making him a threat as a receiver as well. He is projected to be an every down back with NFL potential by Rivals.com. Look for him to push for playing time as a freshman.
Another incoming back is powerful Melvin Davis out of Nathaniel Narbonne High School in Harbor City, California. Standing at 6'2" and weighting 235, Davis is a load with the ball and is a versatile athlete playing both running back and defensive end in high school. While he lacks the breakaway speed of a Cooper running a 4.57 40, he has great balance and the power to provide an excellent change of pace back for the Huskies.
The third back committed to Washington for this year is Jesse Callier out of Warren High School in Downey, California. A two star recruit per Scout.com, Callier is another excellent athlete who plays both ways in high school playing safety as well.
He is considered another do it all sort of back with good acceleration and balance, and also a decent arm as he is used in the wildcat. At 5'11" 185 pounds he isn’t the biggest guy on the field, but with 4.5 speed is a good all-around athlete and should be able to contribute at some point in his career with UW.
Joining the three running backs for the incoming class is full back Zach Fogerson out of O’ Dea High School in Seattle, Washington. A strong athlete who has been a starter on his high school since his sophomore season Fogerson is regarded as a three star by both Rivals.com and Scout.com and is rated the No. 5 and No. 2 recruit at his position respectively by both services. With Paul Homer completing his senior season this year look for Fogerson to push for playing time as a freshman.
With Polk firmly establishing himself as a solid Pac-10 running back the running game has a promising future in Seattle. Although the timing could depend on if Jake Locker returns for his senior season.
With the Huskies running a more pro-style offense, the running backs look to take up a majority of the rushing attempts going forward and should be a strong part of the offense. With a lot of young returning talent to create a very competitive environment, look for the Husky running game to be even stronger going into 2010 and beyond.