Maybe it's don't-jinx-the-star-running-back week around Montlake as the University of Washington football team prepares to start the regular season.
On the day offensive players were made available to the media after practice, tailback Chris Polk shrugged off multiple interview requests as he headed for the Husky Stadium tunnel.
The reason? “Media probation,” one UW official said.
If quarterback Jake Locker’s contributions are paramount to the team’s success – bowl game or not – Polk isn’t far behind. He rushed for 1,113 yards last season, most ever by a UW freshman.
What had people really thinking bigger things were ahead was the way Polk ended 2009 – four consecutive 100-yard rushing efforts in the Pacific-10 Conference before the finale against California.
His career-high 136 yards at Notre Dame could be in jeopardy come Saturday when the Huskies face Brigham Young’s bustling but inexperienced defense in Provo, Utah.
What is the expectation for Polk? Nobody likes to talk numbers.
“I’d like to see his average per carry go up, at minimum, (1) yard,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “I think last year he was at 4.8 (actually, 4.9). At minimum, I’d like to see him this year at 5.8. I think that’s a realistic number for him.”
Joel Thomas, UW running backs coach, has a more pragmatic approach.
“The number I’m looking for is 90. If he’s grading out 90 percent or better with the plays he’s in, usually something good is getting accomplished,” Thomas said.
Each week, Thomas grades his running backs in three areas: assignment, technique and effort.
“Really, the last one should never be anything less than 100 percent – and he controls that,” Thomas said. “Assignment-wise, it’s doing your job and being locked in on it, and he’s usually pretty good about that.”
The grade that fluctuates the most is technique. Polk mostly was in the 90s last season, although he dipped below 80 a couple of times.
“It’s not cutting when you’re supposed to cut,” Thomas said. “(Or) on a screen, reaching out and grabbing a guy rather than facing a guy up, little things like that.”
Then, Thomas threw out a tangible number as one of Polk’s goals: Three yards made after contact with a defender, per carry.
“Running, just like everything else, it’s a mind-set – and Chris has the do-not-get-tackled mind-set,” said offensive guard Gregory Christine. “It makes it great for an offensive lineman, because you open a hole, you know he’s going to be downfield doing his thing.”
Receiver Devin Aguilar says he knows the sophomore wants to “lap” his numbers from 2009.
“That’s something you’ll have to ask him,” Thomas said, “and he’s on media probation.”
Defensive end Kalani Aldrich (knee) was limited again Wednesday, but he’ll be among the 76 players traveling to Provo. ... Receiver James Johnson (ankle) worked out again with no limitation. ... Reserve cornerback Gregory Ducre (shoulder), a true freshman, was a late scratch after dinging his left shoulder in pre-practice session. Sarkisian indicated the injury wasn’t too serious. ... Sarkisian said those on the travel squad were being informed after practice Wednesday.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports