Chris Polk Becomes Face Of The Huskies With Jake Locker's Departure

LOS ANGELES CA - Running back Chris Polk #1 of the Washington Huskies celebrates his second quarter touchdown against the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

With "Montlake Jake" gone, the Washington Huskies football team will depend on Chris Polk to lead the team to a winning season and a second consecutive bowl berth.

It's not usual for a college tailback to finish with 1,415 rushing yards, the second-most in a single season in school history and not be considered the star of the team.

This was the case for Washington tailback Chris Polk last season. Nothing against Polk, but I'm not sure anybody could've taken the spotlight away from Jake Locker.

Though Locker was the quintessential leader of the Huskies and led the team to several game-winning drives in the fourth quarter, I don't think there's any argument on who was the better offensive player for the Huskies last season.

Polk finished the regular season averaging 103.17 rushing yards per game, good for second best in the Pac-10.

The Redlands, California native also brought his best performances in the Huskies' biggest games. In a do-or-die game in order to become bowl-eligible against the Cougars in the Apple Cup, Polk gained 284 yards on 28 carries and scored two touchdowns en route to a 35-28 victory.

Polk capped off his sophomore campaign by taking home offensive MVP honors at the Holiday Bowl after rushing for 177 yards and one touchdown, leading the Huskies to a 19-7 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

With Locker now in the NFL, Polk becomes the leader and the face of this Washington Husky football team.

Newly-named starting quarterback Keith Price might be entitled to be the on-the-field leader of the offense, but Chris Polk is going to be the player that will be taking the pressure off of him.

Incoming freshman wide receiver and Parade All-American Kasen Williams may be the most talented and athletically gifted player on the entire UW football roster, but Chris Polk has already proven himself to be the workhorse of the offense.

Head Coach Steve Sarkisian will be calling all the shots from the sideline, but Polk will be the one executing the majority of the offense for third-year head coach's offense.

Chris Polk is now the face of this football team.

The success of the Huskies depends on the performance of Chris Polk. Not only will he take pressure off of Keith Price by opening up opportunities for the passing game, but he'll also be able to eat clock and keep games closer because of his tough and hard running style.

Polk rushed the ball 260 times last season, ranking him fifteenth overall in rushing attempts in the entire nation. He also started all 13 of the Huskies games. It's hard to believe he's been able to put in that amount of work when considering his physical running style that feeds of of making hard contact with opposing defenses.

It will be tougher for Polk to put up the same numbers this year as he has in his past two years at UW. This season, Polk loses an experienced quarterback under center and also will have to play behind an offensive line that only returns two full-time starters: senior left tackle Senio Kelemete and junior center Drew Schaefer.

With this said, there is an enormous amount of pressure on Chris Polk to perform well and it will be even tougher this season with more opposing defenses keying in to solely stop him from gaining yardageand not having a player like Jake Locker to worry about anymore.

Opposing coaches won't be the only people with their eyes on Polk this upcoming season. After brief uncertainty on whether he was going to bolt for the NFL after the end of the 2010 season, Polk decided to return for his junior year and earn his degree (he redshirted in 2009).

Husky fans better enjoy his talents this season because he may be good for gone and off to the NFL barring any major injuries.

His NFL Draft profile reads,

Among the more physical runners in the country, he won't be overlooked by NFL scouts. One of the few productive runners with the combination of size and speed to be a lead back in the NFL, he isn't likely to make it out of the second round.

Thanks to the enormous popularity of Jake Locker, Chris Polk has gone his first two years without being the star of this Husky football team. This all changes when the Huskies play their first game against the defending NCAA Division One FCS champions, Eastern Washington on September 3rd.

Polk will be going up against some of the most staunch defenses in the nation next season, but the pressure to perform and the spotlight may be his toughest opponents to run over.

After making the Holiday Bowl, Husky Nation won't take another losing and bowl-less season in stride.

Whether it's fair or not, the burden falls solely on the shoulders of this 5-11 junior tailback.

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