The Washington Huskies knew this weekend’s game against top-ranked LSU would be a big challenge – but they didn’t expect they’d have to face it without several key players.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian confirmed on Monday that tailback Jesse Callier and defensive end Hau’oli Jamora will be out for the remainder of the 2012 season due to ACL injuries.
Callier, a junior, injured his knee just three minutes into the Huskies’ first game, a 21-12 win over San Diego State. He will redshirt this year while recovering.
Jamora, a sophomore, did not play in the opener after having anthroscopic knee surgery last Thursday. He missed much of last season due to a torn ACL and re-injured the knee during fall camp, but he was initially expected to miss only a few weeks. Because Jamora already used a medical redshirt in 2011, he has to wait until he exhausts his eligibility before he can apply for a sixth year.
While both are big losses, the injury to Callier could have much greater implications for the Huskies, as he and Bishop Sankey were supposed to join forces to replace Chris Polk, last year’s leading rusher. Polk, a first-team All Pac-12 selection, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent.
Callier was the team’s leading returning rusher before he tore his ACL trying to make a cut. Sarkisian admitted on Monday’s radio show that he didn’t realize the severity of the injury at first, because Callier was able to get up and walk off the field under his own power.
The season-ending injury means that Sankey, who had a career high 22 carries for 66 yards this weekend, will be asked to shoulder much more of the workload this season. The sophomore and his coach are both confident he can handle the added carries and the added responsibility.
“I think he can do it without a doubt,” Sarkisian said, though he noted Sankey would have to focus on ball security after he fumbled near the goal line in the third quarter of Saturday’s game.
“I just want to step up and do what it takes to help the team for the rest of the year,” Sankey said.
The young players behind him will have to step up as well, as they prepare to get more playing time than expected.
True freshman Erich Wilson II, who ran for more than 2,100 yards in high school last year, was the first back off the bench for Washington this weekend. He finished with two carries for 22 yards and walk-on Willis Wilson, who was dismissed from the team during fall camp but reinstated a day later, had one carry. Redshirt freshman Dezden Petty recorded no stats during the opener but Sarkisian says he’ll get more touches with Callier out.
The team is heading to Baton Rouge to face what might be the toughest defense they’ll see all year, and while the injuries will certainly be a factor, Sarkisian has no intention of using them as an excuse.
“Guys are going to go down with injuries like what happened to us the other night whether it’s Jesse or Ben Riva – those things can’t affect us. We have to continue to execute,” the coach said.
Riva, the starting right tackle, broke his forearm during the first half of the SDSU game and will miss several weeks. While he’s out, right guard Erik Kohler will move back to right tackle, where he started every game in 2011. Sophomore James Atoe, who played sparingly on special teams last year, moved up the depth chart to fill in at right guard.
While Sarkisian was matter-of-fact about the team needing to continue to develop depth so there are capable subs, the recent wave of injuries might be starting to make quarterback Keith Price a little nervous.
“We can’t afford to lose any more guys,” he said.
According to Sarkisian, the Huskies have nine roster players who have suffered ACL injuries, either while on the team or in high school.
Callier and Jamora were both injured on non-contact plays, as was sophomore tailback Deontae Cooper, who is out for the year after sustaining his third ACL tear in as many years during preseason.