Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Huskies lose Callier & Jamora for the season

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies who are 1-0 weren't feeling like a team who is 1-0 on Monday when they heard the news that junior tailback Jesse Callier and medical redshirt sophomore Hau'oli Jamora are done for the season due to ACL tears. The Huskies have experienced the injury bug early this year as Steve Sarkisian must find a way to overcome such injuries. In the offseason the Huskies lost two-starter at offensive guard junior Colin Porter for his career due to shoulder injuries. The Huskies lost senior wide receiver James Johnson to start this season as well. The depth at running back really takes a hit as Deontae Cooper was injured for the third straight season as he'll miss his third straight year. Now the Huskies for the second straight year will lose defensive end Jamora. Running back which was already thin loses Callier for the year as he was supposed to take over for the departed Chris Polk. On top of that the Huskies lost right tackle Ben Riva in the first half to a fractured arm and he'll be out for a while as well. When you add it up the Huskies have lost five starters and a key contributor due to injuries.

One of the many defensive stars in the 2010 Holiday Bowl 19-7 upset win over #18 Nebraska Cornhuskers was Jamora. In that game he had three tackles for loss while recording a sack. He was projected to be the Huskies best pass rusher for the next three seasons. Instead he has played in only four games since that game as he'll miss basically his second straight season. The good news for the Huskies is they have Andrew Hudson and Josh Shirley who can provide pressure on the quarterback so this injury isn't as devastating as it was last season.

The bad news is Jamora is a good pass rusher and I was looking forward to seeing him, Hudson and Shirley on the field at the same time. Also Jamora has already proven he can play at the college level recording four sacks his freshman year. He didn't play much in the first Nebraska meeting when the Huskies lost 56-21 while starting in the 19-7 upset win. Jamora had one of the more dominant defensive efforts for the Huskies in bowl game history. Losing him is a big blow to this defense as they could have had some nice pass rushing situations with him on the field along with Hudson and Shirley. At least the Huskies are prepared for this loss due to recruiting defensive ends pretty heavily the last two years.

With Chris Polk playing in the NFL this year this was supposed to be Jesse Callier's big breakout season. Instead his year ends before he even has a chance to carry the ball. When Keith Price hit Callier in the flat who was wide open everyone figured he would score a touchdown then he fell for after a gain of nine yards with nobody around him. At the time many in the stadium and watching on t.v. figured Callier just slipped. Instead that is when he tore his ACL ending his season with just two receptions for eight yards before even carrying the ball.

Losing Callier is a big blow and the Huskies now are pretty thin at one of the most important positions in football. With Polk leaving to the NFL and now injuries to Callier and Cooper this position is dangerously thin. Callier was supposed to add some speed to the running game, while being a nice receiving threat out of the backfield. He was a guy who can run the wildcat and has shown in the Holiday Bowl he can pass the ball well too completing a 16 yard pass to Jake Locker to open up that win. Callier was also good on kickoff returns and losing his versatility is a major blow. I don't know if the Huskies have anyone on this roster capable of doing the things that Callier can do while I do think there are guys in place who can do the things that Jamora can do. With Callier out Sarkisian must find a way to replace him as the running game against San Diego State won't get the job done going forward.

In Sarkisian's first three years he has mainly featured only one running back in Chris Polk. Look for him to try and do the same with Bishop Sankey. Sankey carried the ball 22 times while the next leading ball carrier was Erich Wilson who had only two carries. That is fine for a Chris Polk who had proven to be durable and successful. While Sankey had a mixed bag of a game. In the first half he was great but in the second half he was shut down plus had a costly fumble.

 Sankey is a four-star recruit and is only a sophomore. I felt like Sankey was going to emerge anyways as the guy over Callier all along so hopefully he can do that. Sankey has  good speed and runs with power. Sankey also showed in the San Diego State game he is good at picking up the blitz as well. So far Sankey has yet to show he can be a threat out of the backfield. Now look for Sarkisian to use Erich Wilson some to spell carries as he had two carries for 22 yards including a 17 yard run last week. If Wilson can continue to do that he will earn more carries. Sarkisian might have to think outside the box to produce a running game as well.

Sarkisian might produce a running game by having his super talented true freshman safety Shaq Thompson play some offense. Thompson who started as the nickel back played some safety, corner and outside linebacker this past game. He looked great out there in his assignments and was a much needed presence on the defense which they haven't had for a while. Thompson is 6'2" and weighs 230 pounds.

The reason Thompson might be an option for some carries was he was a terrific running back for Grant Union high school out of Sacramento, California. Thompson as a senior ran for 1,134 yards(9.45 YPC) with 15 touchdowns on only 120 carries. As a junior he ran for 1,882 yards(11.48 YPC) with 25 touchdowns on 164 carries. My issue with using Thompson is that he is so valuable on defense and you don't want to throw so many things onto a true freshman so early. If Thompson were a junior or even a sophomore I'd be more up for it.

Another option is wide receiver Jaydon Mickens on those fly sweeps that Sarkisian liked to call for Callier he could use Mickens. Mickens could also be used in the wild cat package. As a senior in high school he ran for 378 yards(4.61 YPC) with 13 rushing touchdowns and he also threw for 238 yards on the season. So Mickens could take off running out of the wildcat or complete a pass if need be. Again the downside to that is the Huskies due to injuries at the receiver position are starting Mickens. Like Thompson he is a true freshman so putting him as a starting wide receiver then having him in this role is throwing a lot at a true freshman this early in the program. I think Sarkisian uses both very little in the running game and quite frankly I don't blame him either.

Ultimately, Sarkisian can't let injuries derail the Huskies chances of taking that next step. For defense losing Jamora hurts but they have guys ready to fill the void for him so that loss won't hurt as badly as some think. Far as Callier's injury goes that will hurt as much or as little depending on what Sankey does this year. Had Callier been out for the year the past two sesaons Husky fans would be annoyed but not pressing the panic button because they knew Polk could carry the load. Sankey has nobody who can push him which worries me because fumbling in the red zone is not acceptable and neither is rushing for less than two yards a carry in the second half. I expect Sarkisian to give 90% of the carries to Sankey, 5% to Wilson and the other 5% to Thompson , Mickens and Kevin Smith on trickery. The Huskies have to be able to run the ball this year if they wish to take the next step. They simply can't be like the 2002 Huskies team where Cody Pickett set every passing record but the team only went 7-6 while going 4-4 in conference play. This year hasn't been a fun start for the Huskies dealing with injuries. Hopefully players can step up and make an impact so when these guys return in 2013 the Huskies will be just that much stronger than projected.

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