Each Wednesday of the college football season NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang will identify his Prospect of the Week. To qualify, the player must have played a significant role in their team's performance against a quality opponent, demonstrating not only effectiveness as the collegiate level but the rare traits to demand the attention of pro scouts, as well.
Top Prospect of Week Three: Washington RB Bishop Sankey
With Oregon's DeAnthony Thomas and Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey generating most of the buzz among running backs out west, it isn't difficult to understand why many throughout the country are just beginning to learn the name Bishop Sankey.
After gashing Illinois for 271 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns Saturday at Soldier Field in Chicago, however, football fans across the nation might be catching on.
Averaging 20.2 rushing yards per game more than any other back in college football will do that for a guy.
A year ago, some Washington fans didn't even know much about the 5-10, 203-pound running back, who'd played only briefly behind Chris Polk and primary backup Jesse Callier in 2011. With Polk taking his talents to Philadelphia to play with the Eagles and Callier suffering a torn ACL, however, Sankey took over as the Huskies' starting tailback and exploded for 1,439 rushing yards, the third highest single-season total in school history.
It wasn't just that Sankey was good against the Illini. He also showed his toughness, logging a career-high 35 carries to generate his 208 rushing yards, as well as catching three passes for another 63 yards, including a 31-yard score.
Sankey's touchdowns, while obviously critical to the Huskies' 34-24 victory, were actually two of his least impressive plays in this contest. He caught a pass in the flat from quarterback Keith Price and raced untouched down the right sideline to give Washington a 7-0 in the early second quarter. His rushing touchdown came up the middle from one yard out on the Huskies' first drive after half-time to extend their lead to 17-3.
Frankly, it is the vision, agility and underrated power with which Sankey generates his yardage that was more impressive.
Sankey is a fun back to watch. He's both decisive and patient, showing the burst to zip through gaps when they are available, but also the awareness to bounce plays outside (or inside) when unexpected holes open. He is very quick and has good balance, showing the ability to slide left or right to elude defenders. Sankey does not appear to have elite straight-line speed but isn't caught from behind. He's far from just a finesse back, however. Sankey doesn't back down from physical challenges, lowering his shoulder and keeping his legs driving through contact to earn the tough yardage and taking on hard-charging pass-rushers in pass protection.
Boasting an all-around game that has earned comparisons to anyone from the legendary Emmitt Smith to Baltimore Ravens' star Ray Rice, Sankey is beginning to generate a great deal of buzz in the scouting community. Though he's only been the starter for a little more than one season, his 349 carries over the past 15 games (23.26 per game) could push him to consider making the jump to the NFL after this season.
Few believe that Sankey will continue to average 184.5 yards per game once the Huskies begin Pac-12 play, but last year he proved more than capable of stepping up against the toughest defenses in the conference, rushing for 144 yards against Stanford, 156 yards against Utah and 92 yards (and two touchdowns) against Oregon State. The three universities ranked 1-3 in the Pac-12 a season ago in run defense, with each finishing among the top 27 teams in the country in this category.
Prior Prospect of the Week recipients:
Week One: Alabama WR/RS Christion Jones
Week Two: Miami LB Denzel Perryman