The Huskies lost freshman running back Deontae Cooper to a season-ending injury, but still have plenty of talent at the position. Chris Polk ran for 1,113 yards last season as a freshman, and Johri Fogerson, Demitrius Bronson and Jesse Callier are all in the mix.
About halfway through Washington’s Monday morning practice, freshman running back Deontae Cooper walked slowly out of the tunnel on crutches, an all-too-vivid reminder of the toll football sometimes exacts.
“It’s a violent sport, man,” said UW coach Steve Sarkisian.
Especially for running backs, who in the NFL tend to have the shortest career spans of any players for the obvious reason that they usually take the most maximum-speed hits.
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The play on which Cooper suffered a season-ending ACL tear in a full-contact portion of Saturday’s practice didn’t look like all that much. Cooper had sprinted out for about a 32-yard gain when he was brought down from the side and behind.
“He was near the sidelines, and nobody touched his leg,” Sarkisian said. “He was getting tackled, and it was a little twinge (of the knee) of about four inches. … And that was it.”
The good news is that Cooper — who was the second-leading rusher in the state of California last year and had quickly worked his way up UW’s depth chart since arriving last winter — should make a full recovery.
“It’s not a career-ending thing or anything of that sort,” Sarkisian said. “He’ll be back.”
The Huskies appear to be deeper at tailback than they have been in years, which was the design of Sarkisian and his staff in recruiting last winter.
Despite the presence of Chris Polk (who gained 1,113 yards last season as a freshman), Johri Fogerson, Demitrius Bronson and two players who have since transferred (Willie Griffin and Curtis Shaw), the Huskies went hard after the two leading rushers in the state of California. They got both Cooper and Jesse Callier, an insurance policy already proving handy.
Cooper and Callier each shined last spring while Polk sat out after having his second offseason surgery to repair a balky shoulder.
Polk has been limited throughout camp, but coaches insist he’ll be ready to again carry the full load at tailback if needed.
“It’s just getting the feel back for playing the game and being physical,” said running backs coach Joel Thomas. “I’ve got no doubt he will be ready for the first game. We are taking the right measures to make sure he is ready for the first game and ready to go.”
Callier, who led the state of California last year with 3,010 yards, suffered a knee injury in the spring, but is 100 percent and has continued to give every indication he can contribute this season. He’ll get more practice carries with Cooper out.
Sarkisian last week had referred to Fogerson as something of a “utility player” because he is a good receiver who can fill multiple roles. But Thomas says Fogerson, an O’Dea High graduate, can also fill the role of every-down tailback if needed.
“Should that happen, he is ready for the call there,” Thomas said.
Bronson, a sophomore from Kentwood, had been running fifth on the depth chart before Saturday. But Cooper’s injury shows how quickly fates can change. With Polk also sitting out that practice, Bronson received a lot of carries and showed the talent that a year ago had some tabbing him as UW’s tailback of the future.
“Here is his chance to get on the field and do some things,” Thomas said. “I’m not saying he’s going to get a bunch of carries here and there, but it opens up more opportunities for him at practice to show his thing.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.