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Fall Position Battles: Running Back

With less than two weeks until the start of College Football, the running back position at Washington will probably be the second most talked about battle in the coming days. Who has a chance to start, who do I think is leading. What are your thoughts?

Steve Dykes

The Departed

The Huskies have been blessed the last five years to have to back to back studs carrying the rock.  The most recent was Bishop Sankey.  All Bishop did last year was have one of the greatest seasons in Washington history. In fact his 3309 yards and 36 TD's were the best two years ever.  Everyone thought he was too slow until he showed up at the combine.  His speed and strength showed there, add this to his superior vision he showed on the film, and he was the first RB taken in the draft.   He is joining the beloved Jake Locker in Tennessee.  The Titans will be the second most watched team by the Husky faithful.  Bishop his hard to replace.  Fortunately, for us the cupboard was not left bare for Coach Petersen.

Returning Players

Dwayne Washington RS SO - Washington is the leading returning rusher.  He had 332 yards and 4 td's in 2013.  Although we was originally recruited to play WR, he used the redshirt year to turn himself into the Huskies backup RB.  Because of that WR background, I was surprised that he only had one catch last year.  However, most of his action was spent in garbage time.  Dwayne is a big back at 6'2" 219.  He runs upright and hard.  He also ran a 4.44 40, second fastest on the team. I was very impressed with what I saw from him last year, particularly against Boise St.  For many he is considered the favorite.

Jesse Callier RS SR - Callier ran the ball 48 times for 213 yards and 3 td's.  He also added 9 receptions for 53 yards. After earning the starting position two years ago, he tore his ACL in the first game after only two touches.  Many including me felt Jesse wasn't necessarily going to be the lead back in 2012.  He was more experienced in many aspects of the passing game than Bishop Sankey was at the time, which gave him the initial nod.  Jesse worked hard to get back on the field last year.  He will get plenty of plays based his experience.

Deontae Cooper RS JR or SR? - By now everyone knows Deontae's story.  Everyone's inspiration, including fans, coaches and players is fully healthy.   Cooper finally got to show what made such a top recruit out of HS with a 166 yard performance against Oregon State in 2013.  He finished the season with 270 yards rushing on 43 carries.   I would venture to guess that outside of the other three contenders friends and family, everyone is pulling for Coop!  I for one hope he gets a sixth year at Washington after missing 3 with knee injuries.  He may decide he wants to move on and not even apply for a sixth year.

Joining the Stable

Lavon Coleman RS Fr - Coleman is another big back 5'11" 219, and runs like a freight train.  He won the offense scout team award last year.  He followed that up by starring in the spring.   Its reported that Sark, thought many times about removing his redshirt but fortunately, the huskies were deep at RB last year.  Injuries aside the dawgs should have plenty of depth of again.  One of the best compliments someone can get is from a competitor and here is a great one:

"He’s a great kid," Callier said. "The one thing I like about Lavon is, he’s very straight-minded. He’s on top of his stuff. He acts like a veteran, and that’s very special and exciting to see from a young cat."

Shaq Thompson JR - Whether you like it or not the Myles Jack experiment at UCLA worked.  Fortunately, our coach is smart enough to realize we have a similar athlete on Montlake.  Shaq will never be the full time starter but I suspect against certain opponents he will have a slew of plays just for him.  His athleticism will be fun to see on offense.

The Analysis

To me the main story is - the Huskies will be just fine at RB in 2014.   They are deep and talented.  The top three guys on this list all had between 40-50 carries last year.  And arguably the best one, redshirted.  So who starts?  After an off-season where I have talked  up Lavon Coleman, I have to say Dwayne Washington is the starter.  Coleman may eventually take over this job, and I expect him get carries from the beginning.  But Washington has had a great fall camp and appears to be the leader for now.  Callier and Cooper will also both see action as a change of pace runner.

We will probably see a running back by committee early in the season until someone takes charge.  The big backs will be our workhorses, with "little guys" used on third down and to change the pace.  This position group, like the qb's is deep, and shows how far Husky football has came.  Don't be surprised if all four of these guys leads the team in rushing at sometime this year.