At one point, Bishop Sankey was the crown jewel of Paul Wulff’s 2011 recruiting class. The four-star running back had gone under the radar for some time and gave the former Cougar head coach his verbal commitment. Then Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian came along and stole the Cougars’ treasure.
That transpired over two-and-a-half years ago. Now, Sankey leads the nation in rushing yards per game for the bitter rival of the school he first committed to nearly three years ago.
A little over a year ago, Sankey was a complete unknown. He was the third-string-made-second-string-made-starting running back by Week 2 of last season. If Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier hadn’t torn their ACLs, Sankey may not be starting right now, let alone asserting himself into the national spotlight.
Of course, there’s the argument to be made that he would have forced Sarkisian’s hand and become the starter eventually anyway, but for the sake of the storyline, let’s assume not.
He burst onto the scene last season, rushing for more than 1,400 yards as a sophomore. As a junior, he’s on pace to obliterate that number. With his current pace of 189.5 yards per game, Sankey would account for over 2,200 rushing yards this season, only about 400 yards behind Barry Sanders’ single-season record.
Will Sankey keep up the pace? Probably not, but it’s not completely unrealistic. The Huskies haven’t played slouches in their first two games. Boise State was ranked 19th in the country, and Illinois was 2-0 coming off a 45-17 victory against Cincinnati.
Washington will play a lot of better opponents this season – Stanford, Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State – but it will also play worse ones – Idaho State, Colorado, Cal.
No matter, any Heisman talk before at least Week 6 is premature. Johnny Manziel wasn’t even in the discussion until mid-way through last season. It’s worth bringing up, however.
Sankey is a junior, leading an offense with a talented fifth-year senior at quarterback. An offense that is supposedly pass-first – though that claim was shot down in Sarkisian’s press conference this week. He has evolved into one of the best running backs in the nation.
Who knows how Sankey would have faired at WSU, running behind a far less talented offensive line. Maybe the Cougars wouldn’t have hired the air-raiding Mike Leach if they had a running back as talented as Sankey. If they did, would Sankey have had the opportunity to improve the way he did at UW? Probably not. It’s all speculation, but it’s hard to find a better situation for Sankey right now, and it’d be hard to find a better running back for the Huskies.