It's funny how things work out sometimes.
When now-Washington coach Steve Sarkisian was an assistant at USC last decade, he recruited now-Washington running back Chris Polk heavily out of local Redlands East Valley High. Back then, Polk was a top-100 prospect, and he committed to USC to compete with Joe McKnight and Co. for carries in the Trojans' backfield, but he ended up going against the grain and choosing coach Tyrone Willingham and the down-on-their-luck Washington Huskies.
Then Willingham was fired after Polk's freshman season when the Huskies went 0-12, Sarkisian was hired after grooming Mark Sanchez into an NFL first-round selection, and soon Sarkisian was Polk's college coach.
And now the 5-11, 222-pound Polk, a fourth-year junior, is Sarkisian's biggest weapon as the third-year Washington coach attempts to pull off an upset over USC for the third straight season this Saturday at the Coliseum. Considered a potential first-round selection in the NFL draft, he's been flat-out dynamic this year, averaging more than 120 rushing yards and another 30-plus receiving yards per game. He surpassed 1,000 rushing yards last month for the third time in his college career.
"He’s big and physical, and he’s really good in the passing game too," now-Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said this week. "So he’s really kind of the complete package."
Polk's stat lines the last two seasons against USC include 235 yards from scrimmage and a TD. He's proven to provide a tough challenge for the Trojans' defense, perhaps the toughest challenge over the last couple of years outside of LaMichael James and Jacquizz Rodgers.
But USC is trying to keep it simple in devising a game plan to stop him this week, following what the Oregon Ducks did in holding him to 3.3 yards per carry in their 34-17 win over the Huskies last weekend.
"It's not real complicated," Kiffin said this week. "Tackle the guy really well and don't let him fall forward. Just look no further than what happened on Saturday night. Oregon tackled great the whole game.
"They swarmed to the ball, they tackled really well, they knocked the power back."
But, even then, Polk found a way to accumulate 114 yards out of the backfield. It's been almost a year since he's failed to reach the century mark in yards from scrimmage.
With him, it's more of a case of trying to limit his production than trying to make him completely unproductive -- and, of course, trying not to remember that he could very easily have been doing the same thing for the Trojans right now.