Fall Preview: Running Backs

Chris Polk (Getty)

In part three of our preseason series reviewing each position on the team, we take a look at the running backs and get a quick view of the two freshmen who are expected to push incumbant starter Chris Polk for playing time...

Players: FB Austin Sylvester (Sr.); FB Dorson Boyce (Sr.); Johri Fogerson (Jr.); Chris Polk (So.); Cole Sager (So.)#; Demitrius Bronson (So.); FB Kimo Makaula (RS Fr.); Deontae Cooper (Fr.); Jesse Callier (Fr.); FB Zach Fogerson (Fr.)

Between the years 1996 and 2006, Washington was unable to produce a 1,000-yard rusher. However, in two of the past three seasons, the Huskies have had two backs top that mark including Polk last fall.

Polk was one of the pleasant surprises of the 2009 football season. The talented redshirt freshman ran harder and was more physical than anyone expected him to be, rushing for 1,115 yards and five touchdowns. He was also a nice outlet receiver for Jake Locker, hauling in 25 receptions for 171 yards on dump-offs and screens. While he doesn't possess big-time, breakaway speed, Polk can still manage to get the edge and has enough shake to make people miss. However, don't sleep on the fact that he rarely goes down with the first hit and breaks arm-tackles regularly.

Polk could improve as a blocker, especially on passing downs, but he's made significant strides since he arrived and running backs coach Joel Thomas has noted that he's been happy with the sophomore's progress.

The ironic thing is, even if Polk breaks off more big runs this fall and is more explosive, he could end up putting up fewer yards and that's a direct result of the young men who will be backing him up.

Cooper and Callier both enrolled early and showed flashes of why the Huskies were so high on them.

Cooper is bigger and faster, exploding for big runs during the spring on a regular basis. He's got outstanding vision and comes to Washington after rushing for a combined 7,450 rushing yards and 107 touchdowns during his high school career including nearly 3,000 yards and 40 touchdowns as a senior last fall.

For his part, Callier was even more prolific as a senior than Cooper was, rushing for 3,010 and 43 touchdowns, leading the state of California in both categories while finishing seventh in the entire country for preps.

Callier's stock in trade is getting on the edge and making people miss, however he's no slouch inside.

They both need to add some size and improve as blockers, but there's not a person who is close to the Huskies that doesn't think the two freshmen will see lots of touches this fall.

Their presence alone will ease the burden on Polk and keep him fresh, allowing the Huskies to wear down defenses as the game moves along.

While Johri Fogerson and Bronson might seem like the odd-men-out of the equation, but both will have a chance to make a contribution in Washington's offense this fall.

Fogerson is widely considered the best receiver of the bunch and head coach Steve Sarkisian found ways to get the ball in his hands on screen plays several times during the 2009 season.

Bronson could be headed to fullback and even took some snaps there during the spring. He's bigger than all of the other tailbacks, so he's someone the coaches would like to figure out a way to use, however he struggled some with fumbles as a freshman and he needs to regain their confidence before he sees an increased role.

Sager, a walk-on last year, is a servicable player who saw time on special teams last fall. Expect to see him in that same role this season.

At fullback, the Huskies have several candidates who all bring something different to the table.

Sylvester is smart and reliable. He isn't a devestating blocker, but he's adequate as a lead-blocker and is the likely starter unless one of the younger players has a big fall camp.

Boyce moved to fullback from tight end during the spring, but with the loss of Kavario Middleton, he could be moved back to his old position. Most likely he will be a player Washington uses in the H-Back position, sending him in motion, taking advantage of his blocking skills to open up holes in the running game.

Makaula is an intriguing player, but seems like a bit of a 'tweener in that he's got a big frame and is a very good athlete, but doesn't seem like the most natural blocker. He also might be a better fit at tight end, so it will be interesting to see how he fits into the equation.

The real 'X' factor will be Zach Fogerson, Johri's younger brother, who is probably the most natural fullback of the bunch.

Fogerson is a very good runner and receiver and he's a very good lead-blocker. If he can pick up the schemes quickly, it wouldn't be a shock to see him take more snaps than anyone at the position this fall.

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