Oct. 24, 2008
by Jeff Bechthold
The phrase "running back by committee" has become a cliché in football. Its overuse has lessened its meaning.
This season's Washington football team, however, can use that phrase at its most accurate.
All six members of that group are in either their first or second season at the UW. The list includes a true sophomore (Johnson), two redshirt freshmen (Griffin and Yakaboski) and three true freshmen (Polk, Freeman and Dailey).
What's more is that four different players have started at tailback in the Huskies' first six games (Polk, Freeman, Griffin and Dailey, in that order). That foursome is made up of a redshirt freshmen and three true freshmen.
When Chris Polk started the UW opener at Oregon on Aug. 30, it was believed that he was the first true freshman to start a season-opener at tailback in modern Husky history. In only six games' time, he's become one of just three true freshmen to start at the position this season. Injuries (including likely season-enders to Polk and Yakaboski and other, more minor, injuries to others) have conspired to force this large number of young players into action.
So, what's the good news to you, the Husky fan?
The good news is that every one of these six has shown at least a glimpse of true talent in their limited time. Each of them, even in very limited duty, has displayed a reason to believe that they can contribute significantly to the Huskies' offensive attack during this and coming seasons.
Anyone who has watched the UW game in and game out (dating back to last season in the case of Johnson) would conclude that the Huskies' future at the position is truly bright, if not slightly crowded.
The most recent of this kennel of young Husky pups in the backfield to make his mark is Dailey, a true freshman from Vacaville, Calif., a city of about 100,000 on Interstate 80, halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento.
Dailey submitted what might be the Huskies' offensive performance of the year last Saturday vs. Oregon State. After having made his college debut (coming off the bench) only one game prior at Arizona, Dailey earned his first college start against the Beavers.
In rushing for 102 yards on 16 carries (including an electrifying 59-yard sprint to the end zone), Dailey joined an elite club of Dawgs who have rushed for 100 or more yards in their first Husky start. That group includes Louis Rankin (the last Husky to do it, in the 2005 season-opener vs. Air Force), Corey Dillon (1996 vs. Stanford), Leon Neal (1995 vs. BYU) and Napoleon Kaufman (1992 vs. Arizona State) in the modern era.
What's more is that none of those players, great as they were, accomplished this feat as a true freshman, as Dailey did.
Think about it: the Husky tailbacks corps is comprised of six players and five of the six have at least three seasons remaining at the UW. Similar arguments could be made about the similarly young and talented groups at both wide receiver and defensive line.
In spite of the rough times this season at Montlake, these young Dawgs, and the clear talent that they're displaying, are a significant reason for hope for the future.