Anyone who has tracked University of Washington football for awhile will not have been surprised by the fact that the Huskies placed just one player, running back Chris Polk, on the first-ever All-Pac-12 team announced this week.
A fourth-year junior, Polk certainly warranted inclusion on the conference squad given that he ran for 1,341 yards, scored 15 touchdowns (11 rushing, 2 receiving) and ran for 100 or more yards in nine of Washington’s (7-5-0) 12 games, pushing his career total of 100-yard rushing games to 20.
Two other Huskies, linebacker Cort Dennison, the Pac-12 leader in tackles, and offensive lineman Senio Kelemete, were named to the second team, and six others — quarterback Keith Price (school single-season record 29 touchdown passes), receivers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, cornerback Desmond Trufant and defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu — received honorable mention recognition.
Polk, who has yet to announce whether he will enter the NFL draft in April or return to Washington, becomes just the second Husky named to the all-conference first team in the past six years, joining linebacker Mason Foster, selected last year.
Of more significance, which speaks to the massive rebuilding job that Steve Sarkisian is undertaking, is Polk is just the seventh Husky awarded first-team status in the past decade (since 2001), and only the 12th in the 2000s. The seven since 2001: C Kyle Benn (2001), DT Larry Triplett (2001); WR Reggie Williams (2002-03); KR Charles Frederick (2003); S C.J. Wallace (2006); LB Mason Foster (2010); Polk (2011).
Washington almost had as many first-team all-conference players following their 2000 Rose Bowl season — five — than it has had since then — seven. Or, to look at it another way, during the time Don James coached the Huskies (1975-92), he had 64 first-team all-conference players, an average of 3.55 per season.
Since 2000, the second year of the Rick Neuheisel regime, the drain of high-caliber players at Washington has been remarkable and unrelenting compared to previous decades. James and successor Jim Lambright (1993-98), for example, combined to coach 43 first-team All-Pac-10 players in the decade of the 1990s. Neuheisel (1999-02), Keith Gilberton (2003-04), Tyrone Willingham (2005-08) and Sarkisian (2009-present), coached just 12 in the 2000s.
The following graphic shows the number of first-team all-conference and All-America selections Washington has over the past four decades. It also shows the number of NFL draft choices by decade, as well as No. 1 picks by decade. It’s not only a sorry testimony to talent slippage, it explains in just four lines why the Huskies have fallen so far behind programs such as Oregon’s.
|Decade||Coach||All-Conf.||All-America||NFL Picks||NFL No. 1s|
|1970s||Owens, D. James||28||33||37||1|
|1990s||James. J. Lambright||43||28||52||6|
Sarkisian has yet to close the talent gap much on the Ducks, especially, but it speaks well of him and his staff that he has the Huskies headed to their second consecutive bowl game (which one, we’ll find out Sunday).
For Husky fans, it’s even more encouraging that he started to infuse the program with players such as Seferian-Jenkins, a true freshman, and Kasen Williams, another true freshman.
Seferian-Jenkins, who has 36 receptions for 479 yards, already is tied for fourth on the list of career touchdown receptions by a UW tight end with six, and was Washington’s most effective receiver in five games. Last season, all Huskies tight ends combined to catch six passes.
Williams, who made that astounding hurdle of Washington State’s Nolan Washington in the Apple Cup, has been Washington’s best receiver over the past month.
Both Seferian-Jenkins and Williams, the 2010 national Player of the Year by Parade magazine, both possess the talent to become first-team All-Pac-12 choices. All Sarkisian and his staff need to do now is unearth several more like them, each year, as James routinely did.