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UW's other star Polk ready to go

With clean bill of health, Chris Polk looks to build on strong '09

  • Tailback Chris Polk carries the ball during the first day of practice.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Tailback Chris Polk carries the ball during the first day of practice.

  • Husky tailback Chris Polk listens during drills at the first day of practice at Husky Stadium in Seattle on Monday.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Husky tailback Chris Polk listens during drills at the first day of practice at Husky Stadium in Seattle on Monday.

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By Scott M. Johnson
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Tailback Chris Polk carries the ball during the first day of practice.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Tailback Chris Polk carries the ball during the first day of practice.

  • Husky tailback Chris Polk listens during drills at the first day of practice at Husky Stadium in Seattle on Monday.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Husky tailback Chris Polk listens during drills at the first day of practice at Husky Stadium in Seattle on Monday.

SEATTLE -- The most effective offensive player from the 2009 University of Washington football team was back on the field for the start of training camp Monday afternoon, and the Huskies were sure glad to have him.
To the rest of the college football world, the return went largely unnoticed.
Sophomore running back Chris Polk didn't turn down any multi-million-dollar contracts, didn't flirt with the idea of playing Major League baseball and didn't take two trips to the East Coast to help fuel a Heisman campaign with countless media appearances.
Polk is the other star of the UW offense, although he has proven to be just as important to the Huskies as senior quarterback Jake Locker.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't think it was nice to have him back," running backs coach Joel Thomas said Monday, after Polk took part in his first offseason practice since undergoing surgery on his left shoulder.
With a clean bill of health and 11 added pounds of muscle, Polk returned to the practice field with very little fanfare Monday. He returns for his third year at UW after rushing for a freshman-record 1,113 yards in 2009, and yet most of the attention has been on Locker as of late.
Locker wouldn't mind sharing the spotlight.
"He's a great running back," the quarterback said Monday evening. "We all know how good he is. But if you ask him, (flying under the radar is) the way he'd like to have it. He won't have any complaints, and we won't either."
Polk, who averaged 4.9 yards per carry last season despite playing behind a revolving-door offensive line, said he'll gladly defer all the attention to Locker.
"That doesn't bother me because Jake is Jake," he said. "He is Jake. He is going to lead us to the Rose Bowl if we do our job. Just him being here is (good for) team morale."
As much focus as national pundits have given to Locker this offseason, the Huskies know that Polk will get his share of attention when the season begins.
"All the teams that played us last year, he's not under the radar for them," Thomas said. "He had pretty good games against most of the Pac-10. So I wouldn't say he's under the radar."
This time last year, Polk was weighed in at slightly more than 200 pounds and was mired in a five-headed battle for the starting tailback job. He's added a record-setting season to his resume and 11 pounds to his frame.
But Polk, now 215 pounds, isn't making any predictions about what kind of rushing totals he might attain this year.
"Right now I don't have any individual goals," he said. "The only goal I have is Rose
Bowl. That's what we're focusing on."
Thomas said that Polk is still far from a finished product, with pass blocking and fumbles as two of the areas upon which he could improve. Thomas also noted that Polk could be better in the open field, pointing toward his total of five touchdowns as a relatively low number for a runner with as many yards as Polk had as a freshman.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian said that Polk's big-play ability could improve if the team cuts down on his carries. Junior Johri Fogerson and true freshmen Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier could help ease the workload this season.
"Chris was excellent around the line of scrimmage last year," Sarkisian said, adding that Polk could stand to take fewer hits at the line. "But I think when he watches the film and we watch it together and evaluate it, there were opportunities for some really big plays last year with a secondary cut, a secondary move, (or) a secondary (broken) tackle on a free safety that could have created some big plays."
Seeing an improved Polk come the Sept. 4 season opener would be a boost for the UW offense. But just having Polk on the field at all was a pretty good start to training camp.
"He's got fresh legs, put on some size," Thomas said. "He's been through the battles and had success doing it. Now I'm sure he comes into this season with a little more confidence than at this time last season.
"That's what veterans are about; they come in and have a little more swagger and they're ready to perform."

Story tags » Huskies Football

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