Fall Camp Assessment: Running Backs

Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE

With Fall Camp wrapping up, we're taking a look at each position group; next up, the running backs.

Projected Depth Chart

Bishop Sankey – Jr

Dwayne Washington – RFr

Jesse Callier – Jr

Deontae Cooper - Jr

Ryan McDaniel – RFr

Lavon Coleman - Fr

Analysis

Bishop Sankey was a revelation last season. Many questioned why the coaches poached him from WSU at the last minute when they had commits from the previous year from Deonte Cooper and Jesse Callier. After last season, I don’t think anyone is questioning that decision anymore. Sankey rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and over 15 touchdowns and came on incredibly strong towards the end of the season. He showed solid speed and strength, but it was his suddenness, vision, anticipation, and most importantly durability, that made him so dangerous.

There’s no question that Bishop Sankey is the number one running back this season. Behind him, things get a bit murkier. It doesn’t sound like Callier and Cooper are their usual selves even though they appear healthy and are getting reps in the team sessions in practice. In my opinion, it remains to be seen what will happen with them during the season, and I expect them to have the kind of season Kevin Smith had last year coming off an injury. He was "healthy" and even made some plays (remember that special teams play against Colorado?), but he wasn't quite himself. But, he has really showed up in fall camp and seems to back to normal. I’m optimistic if those two get through this season unscathed and learn to start trusting their knees again, they can come back strong.

I think the #2 option after Sankey is Dwayne Washington. When he was moved from wide receiver to running back during bowl game practices last year the coaches were really impressed. Being 6’1" and close to 220 pounds, he brings a larger physical presence to the position, but he still has speed and some big play ability. Coupled with his violent running style, he could be a breakout candidate on offense this year and help wear defenses down.

Behind him is Ryan McDaniel, Washington’s "big back." Between Sankey, Washington, Cooper, Callier, and even Kendyl Taylor getting some reps in the backfield, I don’t know how much McDaniel will see the field. He’s still young and will improve, but with the depth and talent coming back, I don’t see him playing too much.

Lavon Coleman is the only true freshman running back on the roster, and with the depth and talent ahead of him, I’d think that coaches will do whatever they can to redshirt him to build depth for the future. Lastly, there is John Ross. Even though he's a receiver, he's such an athlete and explosive play maker that the coaches gave him some touches out of the backfield and that might be a wrinkle we see during the season. Overall, a very strong position coming out of fall camp, with a star player headlining, and nice talent and depth behind him.

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