SEATTLE — Five days before the 2011 season opener, University of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian still didn’t know what kind of team he would have on the field.
The Huskies’ coach said Monday that his staff was still evaluating the health status of two starters and a key reserve before Saturday’s opener against Eastern Washington.
Starting tailback Chris Polk, starting cornerback Quinton Richardson and reserve running back Johri Fogerson will be evaluated further before any decision is made, Sarkisian said Monday.
“We’d like to make some form of a decision, at least internally, at least by Wednesday,” he said. “But that remains to be seen. So we’ll see where we go from there.”
Polk underwent a knee scope to repair the meniscus in his left knee about two weeks ago, and he has yet to practice. The Pac-10 Conference’s second-leading rusher last season has been limited to walking the stairs at Husky Stadium in preparation for an eventual return.
Sarkisian said he has no plans to rush Polk back onto the field, especially if it’s at the expense of his future health.
“I need to see that he’s healthy,” Sarkisian said Monday afternoon. “I need to see that there’s no swelling. I need to see him play full speed. I need to see him cut. I don’t necessarily need to see him take a hit; I know he’s a tough kid. But I need to make sure that he’s healthy.
“This is not just about Saturday; this is about October, November as well. So I just need to see him healthy, doing the stuff that I know I’ve seen him do before.”
If Polk is held out of Saturday’s game, the starting role is likely to go to sophomore Jesse Callier, who ran for 433 yards as his primary backup last fall.
Richardson suffered a high ankle sprain in an Aug. 13 practice and took part in his first practice Monday afternoon. He still has a ways to go as far as lateral movement but appears to be on his way toward recovery.
If Richardson can’t play Saturday, his starting role appears likely to go to sophomore Greg Ducre.
Fogerson’s injury, which is a flare-up of the hip pointer that kept him off the field for most of 2010, may have the most widespread effects. If both he and Polk are held out of Saturday’s opener, the Huskies would be left with only two scholarship tailbacks: Callier and true freshman Bishop Sankey. The coaching staff wouldn’t mind redshirting Sankey, if possible, but injuries to teammates could force the freshman out of Spokane into action right out of the gates.
Bruns likely to redshirt
While acknowledging that his senior wide receiver could get forced into action at some point this season, Sarkisian said Monday that the plan is to redshirt Cody Bruns so that he’ll be eligible for one more year next fall.
A wealth of available players at the position, and some off-the-field issues that have distracted Bruns during training camp, opened the door for a redshirt season for the senior from Prosser.
“It would be great to have a veteran leader, (a) senior wide receiver, next year as we graduate some seniors this year,” said Sarkisian, whose team could include two senior starters in Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar this fall. “Because of the depth at the position and some of the things in his personal life, we think that’s the best thing for (Bruns) and the best thing for us. We’ll see how that goes.”
Through no fault of his own, Bruns was thrust into the center of controversy as a freshman three years ago when then-coach Tyrone Willingham played him in a meaningless game late in the season and burned a possible redshirt. Bruns has made very little impact since Sarkisian and his staff arrived, but it appears that he’ll get his extra season a year from now.
Players are allowed one redshirt year per five years of college eligibility, although there are exceptions for medical issues.
Bruns’ most obvious contribution to recent teams has been as a holder on field-goal and extra-point attempts. That job will fall to walk-on receiver William Chandler this season.
Johnson atop depth chart
The official depth chart that was released Monday had very few surprises.
The most notable positional battle was at wide receiver, where the Huskies effectively named four starters. Among them was junior James Johnson, who fell out of the rotation last fall and caught just one pass after a solid freshman year. Johnson was named the starting flanker, while Kearse was listed atop the chart at split end. The slot receiver job will be split between Aguilar and sophomore Kevin Smith.
As for Johnson’s promotion to starter, Sarkisian said: “James has earned it.”
Sarkisian added that true freshman Kasen Williams, a Parade All-American from Sammamish, will see significant time in the rotation.