The next question about Sankey was how capable would he be in helping to fill in for the departed Chris Polk. Sankey wasn’t even the primary replacement in fall camp because Jesse Callier was still healthy.
Nine games into the season, Sankey isn’t looking like just another body in the backfield. He’s looking like the early Polk, who finished as Washington’s second all-time leading rusher.
After running for a career-high 189 yards last Friday against California, Sankey is on pace to almost replicate what Polk did last season as a redshirt junior.
Sankey is projected to rush for 1,235 yards if he plays four more games this season. Polk ran for 1,488 yards last season and 1,113 in 2009 during his first season as the featured back. Sankey already has 11 rushing touchdowns, one short of Polk’s total from last season and seven more than Polk had that first season.
“I think he’s starting to get comfortable, and part of that is giving him opportunities to run the things that he’s good at,” coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday. “So he’s getting more carries of the stuff he likes.”
That’s been an evolution for Sarkisian as well as Sankey. Washington thought Sankey, at 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, would be effective out of the spread or shotgun sets and running more on the perimeter. But, the Huskies realized Sankey is more comfortable in the I-formation, poised 71/2 yards deep, then running between the tackles in zone or gap schemes.
He’s also proven he can handle the workload. Sankey has carried 20 or more times in five games this season. He banged away at Cal a season-high 29 times on Friday, then on Sunday, Sankey won every “gasser” sprint during conditioning drills.
“I don’t know if I would have thought coming into the season, ‘Bishop Sankey can carry the ball 30 times a night,’ ” Sarkisian said. “I didn’t know if (he) was built in that way. But he really is. He doesn’t take a lot of head-on shots. He does a nice job bouncing off tacklers.”
Sankey has several areas to improve: He fumbled twice against Cal because he carried the ball with his inside arm instead of the outside; Polk, who was also a receiver in high school, became a massive threat as a receiver out of the backfield, something Sankey may never become; Sankey has on occasion blown pass-blocking duties against blitzes.
“I think he’s starting to get comfortable in … what his responsibility is but isn’t settling for where he’s at,” Sarkisian said. “He’s really working to try to get better, which is really neat to see.”
What he’s doing now has been a revelation for Washington.
The Washington/Colorado game Nov. 17 will kick off at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time and be shown on FX, it was announced Monday. … Cornerback Desmond Trufant, who tweaked his left hamstring during the Cal game, is listed in his usual starting spot on the new depth chart. … Sarkisian said he didn’t expect players injured in the Cal game to be out for an extended time. … Sarkisian reiterated that linebacker/safety Shaq Thompson would make a good running back, but that he was not going to be moved to the offense any time soon.
Huskies’ opponent this week
UTAH (4-5 OVERALL, 2-4 PACIFIC-12 CONFERENCE)
7:30 P.M. SATURDAY, CENTURYLINK FIELD
TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 950-AM, 102.9-FM
COACH: Kyle Whittingham (70-30, ninth season)
AGAINST THE HUSKIES: Washington leads the all-time series 7-0.
WASHINGTON CONNECTIONS: Utes receivers coach Aaron Roderick played at BYU in 1996, when Sarkisian was the BYU quarterback. Utah has no players from the state of Washington and Washington has no players from the state of Utah. Huskies and Utes who went to the same high school or junior college: UW’s Hau’oli Jamora and Utah’s Afa Bridenstine (Kahuku HS, Hawaii); UW’s Mike Criste and Utah’s Sean Fitzgerald (Mission Viejo HS, Calif.); UW’s James Johnson and Utah’s Trevor Reilly (Valley Center HS, Calif.); UW’s Ryan Masel and Utah’s Luke Matthews (Desert Vista HS, Phoenix); UW’s Joshua Perkins, Dwayne Washington and Utah’s Delshawn McClellon (Gahr HS, Cerritos, Calif.); UW’s Gregory Ducre and Utah’s Geoff Norwood (Crenshaw HS, Los Angeles); UW’s Thomas Tutogi and Utah’s Marc Pouvave (Southwestern JC); UW’s Travis Coons and Utah’s Junior Salt (Mount San Antonio College).
SCOUTING REPORT: Utah has won two consecutive blowouts — against Cal and Washington State — and scored 49 points in each. Special teams have been a big factor — kick returner Reggie Dunn has three 100-yard touchdown returns in those two games.
DID YOU KNOW: Washington has faced three opponents from the state of Utah: Utah, Utah State and BYU. The Huskies are 7-0 vs. the Utes, 2-0 vs. Utah State and 4-4 vs. BYU
Travis Wilson 1167968.181745
John White 1496194.25
Field goals AttMadeLong
Coleman Petersen 51048
Aug. 30d. No. Colorado, 41-0Oct. 20lost at Oregon St., 21-7
Sept. 7lost at Utah St., 27-20Oct. 27d. California, 49-27
Sept. 15d. BYU, 24-21Nov. 3d. Washington St., 49-6
Sept. 22lost at Arizona St., 37-7Saturdayat Washington
Oct. 4lost to USC, 38-28Nov. 17 Arizona
Oct. 13lost at UCLA, 21-14Nov. 23at Colorado