The NFL stock of sophomore running back Chris Polk's is rising, and junior wide receiver Jermaine Kearse also could decide to leave early.
SAN DIEGO — The Huskies will say goodbye after Thursday’s Holiday Bowl game with Nebraska to 15 seniors, eight of whom are regular starters, including quarterback Jake Locker.
What they don’t know yet is if they will lose any players early to the NFL — namely running back Chris Polk and receiver Jermaine Kearse.
Polk has drawn the most speculation about possibly declaring after finishing second in the Pac-10 with 1,238 rushing yards this season. The redshirt sophomore ran for more than 1,000 in each of his first two seasons as a Husky.
Rob Rang, a draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, says Polk’s stock has risen during the season and notes that it’s a down year for running backs. He also said running back is one position where players are not necessarily encouraged to stay in college because of the battering they endure.
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“The overriding belief among running backs is you only have so many carries, so it makes a lot of sense to get paid as soon as you can while you are absorbing that punishment,” Rang said. “I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him come out.”
Polk was noncommittal when asked about the NFL twice in recent weeks.
“I really don’t know,” Polk said after the team arrived in San Diego. “That wouldn’t be fair for me to be thinking about that while I still have a game. I am just focused on this game, and after this game we will sit down and think about it. But right now it hasn’t even crossed my mind yet.”
Kearse, a junior, is considered far less likely to make the leap. But asked about it after a practice earlier this month he didn’t rule it out.
“Yeah, I’ll talk to Coach Sark (UW coach Steve Sarkisian) about that,” he said. “I’m just trying to focus on this game right now.”
Sarkisian said after Tuesday’s practice he hasn’t spoken to Polk, adding “we’ll deal with that after the game.”
The deadline to declare for the draft is Jan. 15, and one complicating factor this year is the NFL’s uncertain labor situation for the 2011 season.
• The Huskies ended their last practice at the University of San Diego with a salute to the seniors. The rest of the team formed a tunnel for the seniors to run through.
Joining the seniors was punter Kiel Rasp, who is listed as a junior. Sarkisian initially joked that Rasp just jumped in there, but then said Rasp can graduate this year.
Rasp, a walk-on from Nathan Hale, rejoined the team in fall camp and became the starter after Will Mahan suffered a season-ending knee injury after the first game. Mahan is expected back next season.
• Sarkisian said DE Talia Crichton and SS Sean Parker are officially out for the game. However, DT Chris Robinson, LG Ryan Tolar and WR/holder Cody Bruns have been cleared. Bruns will definitely hold, Sarkisian said, but it isn’t determined if Tolar, who is battling a knee injury, will start. If not, Greg Christine will likely start.
• The team will hold a walk-through Wednesday at Qualcomm Stadium and participate in a luncheon with the public.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org