There’s no deeper unit returning to the Washington football program this season than the receiving corps. The group didn’t lose a single starter, and several incoming freshmen have already impressed coaches during the 11-on-11 drills.
But the established student-athletes are also turning heads, particularly junior Jordan Polk. A fearless 5-8, 161-pound burst of energy, Polk might be one of the fastest Huskies on the field. As a former 100-meter champion in track out of Portland, Ore., Polk is a player who can make an impact in both in the passing game and on kickoffs. But with so much depth at his position, he’s fine with whatever role the coaches find for him.
That said, Polk is adamant that no other receiving group in the Pac-10 (or the country, for that matter) is as talented as the Huskies. Of course, making confident statements is the core of Polk’s personality. You don’t make it in football at his size by being timid or reserved.
“I really do (believe that),” Polk said. “I think we’re going to show that this year that we’re going to be more explosive. You’re going to see more touchdowns and more plays down the field from us. We’re the strongest and the fastest, pound-for-pound, on the team and we’re going to show that.”
The receivers certainly look the part. An offseason spent with the strength program here at Washington (headed up by Ivan Lewis) has turned the group into physical specimens. Polk’s weight is a constant, but he’s made incredible gains in both his agility and explosion off the line. In both of the early practices, Polk has been consistent in gaining separation from the Washington corners.
“I made some improvements over the summer,” Polk said. “A lot of it is little things; blocking in the run game and knowing exactly where to line up so I can play fast.”
It sounds like a small detail, but it’s not. The overarching theme this fall has been the speed with which the team has digested Coach Steve Sarkisian’s playbook. Last year, Polk labored at times with the complex pro-style offense Sarkisian brought with him from USC. His track speed (Polk famously ran a 10.63 in the 100-meter dash at Lincoln High School) wasn’t translating to the gridiron.
“We’ve been in the system for two years now, and everybody knows what they have to do,” Polk said. “When you know what you have to do, you can play fast. Coach Sark harps on that a lot. What’s best about our group is that we all want to compete and do well.”
Polk played in nine games last season, primarily as a kickoff return specialist, where he held a 16.7 average bringing the ball upfield. His goal this season is to become more of an impact on the field, but he doesn’t mind being pushed by his teammates. The receiving corps is especially tight at Washington, and Polk points out they’d rather compete against the Husky defense in fall camp than each other.
“As a corps, we want to be better than the rest,” Polk said. “In this camp, we’re proving a lot day-by-day. We make one mistake, but we learn from it quick. We all are helping one another, like coaches on the field.”
For Polk to gain notice on the field, though, it’s going to come from his speed. He’s improved the ancillary aspects of his game so he could focus on the easy part – running fast.
“I just want to play fast, man,” Polk said. “Now that I feel comfortable in this offense, I can play fast and I can use my speed and everyone can see how fast I really am.”