Washington football fans attending today’s open practice at Memorial Stadium will undoubtedly pay close attention to the tailback spot, where Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey (Gonzaga Prep) are competing to replace Chris Polk.
The workout begins at 11 a.m. and is one of just two chances UW fans have to see the Huskies this spring. The tailback competition is one that is certain to stretch into the fall, and might never have as clear a winner as was the case the past three years, when Polk dominated the position as few others have in UW history.
“Right now, those (Callier and Sankey) would be the guys that would be 1A and 1B,” running backs coach Joel Thomas told reporters after Friday’s practice. “And I’ll let you guys decide (which is which). But it’s been a competitive battle. I really like the energy and the effort they bring every single day. They are serious about taking the job over. One of them is going to do it.”
Just how much one or the other takes it over is the question. Thomas said it’s “safe to say” the carries will be distributed more evenly than the past three years, then adds: “But who knows? When I first got here I didn’t think Chris was going to carry the ball as many times, as well. We were sprinkling in other guys and he kind of took the job over. It may be a 55-45 deal, 60-40, I don’t know.”
Polk, considered a second- or third-round pick in next week’s NFL draft, left UW with one year of eligibility left after rushing for 1,000 yards for three consecutive years. Napoleon Kaufman is the only other UW running back to top the 1,000-yard mark three times.
Polk carried a heavier load than just about any UW tailback. Polk got 779 of UW’s 1,323 rushing attempts the past three years, or 58.8 percent. By comparison, Kaufman got 663 out of 1,452 available attempts in 1992, 1993 and 1994, 45.6 percent.
Sankey rushed for 187 yards on 28 carries last season as a freshman and has continued to improve in his first spring with the Huskies.
“Bishop is starting to become a stronger, more confident tailback,” Thomas said.
Each running back candidate has put on a little weight, though neither is quite up to Polk’s 222. Callier said he’s at 205 and Sankey is at 200, hoping to be 205 by the fall.