It’s funny, when I first heard about Bishop Sankey, it was because he defected from his committment to go to Wazzu, specifically to come to the University of Washington. I didn’t hold a lot of high expectations. I mean, if he was nearly a Cougar, how good could he possibly be?
Sankey had limited carries in 2011, as Chris Polk was still handling the bulk of the mail. I didn’t think I’d see another runner like Polk for YEARS, maybe even decades. I certainly didn’t think I’d see another runner like Polk the very next season!
You could argue that Sankey’s 2012 season was better than ANY season Polk ever delivered (and Polk finished his career as one of the very best Husky running backs of all time). Sankey had 1,439 yards and 16 touchdowns (5.0 yards per carry), to go along with 33 receptions for 249 yards. In his first full season as the lead Husky running back, Sankey proved he was someone very special.
And then he came back for 2013 and totally shattered everyone’s expectations.
You’re looking at the new single-season leader for a Husky running back. 1,870 yards and a whopping 20 touchdowns (5.7 yards per carry), to go along with 28 receptions for 304 yards and 1 receiving touchdown. For the record, the last single-season rushing leader was Corey Dillon with 1,695 yards in 1996.
Sankey averaged over 140 yards per game this year! All but two of his games saw Sankey rush for over 90 yards (and one of those was against Idaho State where he ran for 77 yards on only 4 carries). In his career, he’s had 16 games with 100+ rushing yards and 4 games with 200+ rushing yards. His career day was against Cal this season, where he ran for 241 yards on 27 carries.
With ASJ (where rumors were running rampant that his financial situation was going to force him into entering the draft), I was 100% sure that he would not be coming back for the 2014 season. With Sankey, I was still pretty confident that he’d leave, but I’ve been surprised before. Still, when you consider the running back position and the pounding they take on a game-in, game-out basis, now is the time. Sankey carried the ball a total of 616 times in the last two years (with an additional 61 touches through the air). He was far-and-away the best player on this offense and almost to a fault we relied on him way too much. It was necessary, of course, because we wouldn’t have been nearly as good without him. I’m just glad he survived and looks to be in pretty good shape going into the 2014 draft.
They’re projecting him to be a 2nd or 3rd round pick. That’s impressive considering NFL teams aren’t selecting running backs NEARLY as high (or as frequently) as they’ve done in decades past. There are no injury concerns that I’m aware of, so there is no reason for him to fall like Polk did. I think he’s going to be an elite running back in the league for many years to come.
Honestly, I think a team like Baltimore should look HARD at bringing him in and replacing Ray Rice. I think he could step in TOMORROW and be a better running back than Rice. Sankey has the running chops, obviously, but he’s also a quality pass-catcher and an elite blocker. He should be an every-down back; I just hope he finds a quality organization (outside of the NFC). Other teams who might want to take a look at him would be the Giants, 49ers (Gore isn’t getting any younger), Miami, and maybe even Houston (if they let Tate go in free agency and get rid of Foster’s oppressive contract). As much as I’d like to see him in a Seahawks uniform, he doesn’t make a lot of sense. We JUST drafted Christine Michael last year in the second round and he looks like he’ll be a game-changer in his own right, just as soon as he’s given a chance to produce.
I’m happy for Sankey. He’s done everything we could have possibly asked of him in a Husky uniform; now it’s time for him to become a star in the National Football League. I’m also not too concerned about the Huskies’ situation going forward either.
I REALLY hope Deontae Cooper gets a shot to be our #1 back. He was able to stay healthy throughout 2013 and put on a clinic in that Oregon State game. It looks like his jets are back, giving him the burst to be a big play machine for us next year.
We’ve also got Callier, who I still see as more of a change-of-pace back. He also kept himself healthy in 2013, but looked a step slower than he did pre-injury. One would hope that Callier will be back to full speed next year.
Finally, Dwayne Washington, in spite of some fumble problems earlier in the season, is another option with some quicks. He, as well, worked some magic in that fateful Oregon State game, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him get a chance to show what he can do.
We’re loaded, is what I’m trying to say. Barring injury, running back (and the running game in general, with Cyler Miles at the helm) will be the strongest part of our team in 2014. Coach Pete has the dedication to the run that we, as Husky fans, have come to rely upon. This isn’t a time to mourn the loss of Sankey. It’s time to celebrate all that he’s done for the program and wish him well in his next life. We’ll be fine. And clearly, so will he.