SEATTLE -- Washington was already facing a difficult task traveling to No. 3 LSU. Now they'll be doing it without a starting offensive lineman and a co-starting running back.
Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian on Monday said running back Jesse Callier will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in last Saturday's opener against San Diego State. He wasn't the only significant loss for the Huskies as starting right tackle Ben Riva was lost for an undetermined amount of time with a fractured forearm.
Already a massive concern before the season started, the Huskies will head to Baton Rouge with potentially three sophomores starting on the offensive line and a grand total of 53 total carries among the four running backs they're likely to use.
The bulk of the carries will fall on sophomore Bishop Sankey, who had a career-high 22 carries against the Aztecs, while the offensive line shuffle will see sophomore James Atoe likely get his first career start against LSU's massive and talented defensive line. Guard Erik Kohler, who missed most of fall camp with a knee injury, will move to right tackle.
"I don't want to say any of their names because I can't remember all of them but I know their numbers," Sarkisian said of the Tigers' defensive line. "It's 9 and 18 and 77 and 90 and 99 and 89 and 49 and they are good. That's no secret.”
The injury to Callier is significant in two ways. Washington loses its most experienced running back, but also a complement to Sankey. Callier's strength was getting the ball on the perimeter and running in the open field, while Sankey has shown to be a capable runner in between the tackles.
It also means Callier misses out on his chance to shine after the junior spent his first two seasons stuck behind Chris Polk the No. 2 all-time rusher in Washington history. Sarkisian said Callier will redshirt this season.
"We're going to find out more about Bishop Sankey in a hurry," Sarkisian said. "He got quite a few carries the other night and he responded well. I wish I would have blocked a little better for him I think in turn I wish he would have shown a little more patience running the ball but I think that will come in time getting the experience there.”
The running game was one of the biggest concerns to come out of the Huskies' 21-12 season-opening win over San Diego State. Playing against the Aztecs' unique 3-3-5 defensive alignment, the Huskies managed just 106 yards rushing -- their third lowest total in the last two seasons. Washington was held under 100 yards twice last year in losses to USC and Oregon.
Sankey finished with 66 yards and averaged just 3.0 yards per carry against the Aztecs. Last year, Polk averaged more than 5 yards per rush. Sarkisian said he felt that Sankey ran cautiously following a third-quarter fumble inside the SDSU 10-yard-line.
"I just tried to forget about it and kept on with the game," Sankey said.
Sarkisian didn't see it that way and has stressed to Sankey that the Huskies need his ability to run inside if they're to have success against the LSU defense.
"I don't want to take Bishop's stinger from him because he has big play potential but his big play potential won't be there if he doesn't run with the initiative to run with that stuff," Sarkisian said.
Additionally, Sarkisian said that defensive end Hau'oli Jamora will also miss the rest of the season after knee surgery last week revealed an a second ACL tear. Jamora missed the final eight games of last season after tearing the ligament and was injured during the first week of fall camp. Sarkisian is unsure if Jamora will get any sort of redshirt after being granted a medical redshirt for his injury last year.
"You get into it at the end of his career applying for a sixth season and all of that," Sarkisian said. "You have to kind of get through all of this before you can cross that bridge so we've got a lot to get through before we cross that bridge for Hau'oli.”