Washington Huskies Football: What If…Cooper and Callier Stay Healthy


Nov 5, 2011; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies running back Jesse Callier (24) pumps up the crowd before the kickoff against the Oregon Ducks at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

This is one of those situations that make you feel all warm and tingly. You know what you have in Bishop Sankey coming back. The man rushed for 1,439 yards (third highest single season total in UW history) on 289 carries (also third most in UW history) – and most of this came after the first two games of the season where he only had 82 yards rushing.

Imagine now, that Jesse Callier returns from his ACL tear. Now you have Sankey and a redshirt junior in Callier in your backfield. Remember, Callier was going to be the feature back last year. It was his turn after sitting behind Chris Polk for two years; all signs pointed toward him breaking out. We had seen flashes of his athleticism and his ability in the open field, and it was tantalizing. All of the things you want in a breakaway back were there: the elusiveness, the burst of speed and the ability to make guys miss in the open field.

He never even got a chance to get started; he tore up his knee so early in the San Diego State game that he didn’t get his shot. Well, now he’s healthy and ready to share the backfield with Sankey. What a change of pace back. What a weapon to put in the Wildcat formation. Think about running a shotgun formation with Price at quaterback, Sankey to his left and Callier to right with Kasen Williams, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and one of those stud freshman receivers spread out wide. Oh boy…

But wait…there’s more! Deontae Cooper came in to fall camp fully healed from his third ACL tear in as many years. All anybody wants for him at this point is to get on the field. Just get one carry. Make all of the rehab and all of the hard work worth it. The thing is, Cooper has much bigger plans than just getting on the field.

Because it’s been four years, people tend to forget how special this kid was coming out of high school. He ran for 7400 yards. He scored 107 touchdowns. Hugh Millen, KJR AM’s resident Husky Football expert called him the most talented running back to come to UW out of high school. Think about that for a second – think about the running backs that have come through Montlake. McElhenny, Steele, Robinson, Lewis, Kaufman, Shehee, Dillon and Polk all wore Purple and Gold, but Millen thought that Cooper was more physically gifted than all of them.

So Cooper comes in to fall camp and makes it through the first day. And then the second day. All of the sudden it’s August 28 and he has been the star of fall camp. He’s been so good that when the depth chart comes out Sankey and Cooper are listed as co-starters. We’re in business, now.

When the Husky offense takes the field against Boise State, they have not one, not two, but three different running backs that would start at the majority of Division 1 schools. Sankey of course gets the first start and plays the whole first series.

When they come out for their second series, Cooper lines up behind Keith Price for the first time in four years. Price has to scream the play call because the standing ovation has lasted for more than a minute. All we want to see is Cooper get his first carry. What a story. He’s made it back. We’ll see this on SportsCenter tonight. Predictably, the first play is a dive to Cooper. In an instant, a legend is born. He takes the handoff, hits the hole, makes one cut and is gone. 60 yards untouched.

Steve Sarkisian now has a full blown running back controversy on his hands and he’s thrilled to have such a big problem. Who do you give the ball to? Oh – all of them. You thought Oregon’s tandem of DeAnthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner last year was tough?  Imagine the triumvirate of Cooper, Callier and Sankey. Defenses have to respect all three running backs in addition to that All-American tight end and freak of nature athlete at wide receiver.

Oh my, this could be fun. Bow down and go Dawgs.