Fans of old school, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust football will likely find much to enjoy about Washington’s ground game in 2017. In addition to the presence of bell cow ball carriers Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman, who combined to rush for 2,225 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2016, the Huskies return four of five starting linemen, needing only to replace left guard Jake Eldrenkamp, now a member of the L.A. Rams.
2017 Washington Football Running Backs — Returning Production
2017 Washington Football Running Backs — Fresh Faces
The star here is of course Gaskin, who finds himself within striking distance of some of Washington’s most prestigious rushing records as he enters his third season with the Huskies. In particular, Gaskin could topple Bishop Sankey’s 2013 mark of 1,870 yards, especially if the Dawgs again find themselves playing a 14- or 15-game schedule.
If Gaskin doesn’t break Washington’s single-season rushing record, it will likely be because Lavon Coleman’s readily apparent skill set made it impossible not to give him an ample opportunity to carry the ball as well. Measuring in at 5-11 and 235 lbs., Coleman offers a physicality that is unmatched by anyone else currently on the roster. His breakout campaign in 2016 included an impressive 7.47 yards per carry, ranked seventh among Power 5 running backs, and his 12 rushes of 20 yards or more ranked fourth in the Pac-12.
While established players like Gaskin and Coleman figure to receive the vast share of rushing opportunities, Chris Petersen will have no reason to sideline Kamari Pleasant or Sean McGrew now that both players have utilized their redshirt seasons. In particular, McGrew’s miniscule frame and blazing fast speed offer a change-of-pace threat that could be devastating against opposing defenses in the third and fourth quarters.
While the Huskies’ passing game hardly figures to be destitute — Dante Pettis, Chico McClatcher and Aaron Fuller have all established themselves as dependable targets — Jake Browning will no doubt require something of an adjustment period during the season’s early going as he gets used to a John Ross-less wideout corps. During that time, a dominant ground game will be invaluable, and Husky fans will waste no time in discovering if the success of the 2016 rushing game will continue seamlessly into the new season.