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Washington Husky Football Season in Review: Evaluating the Rushing Offense

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Myles Gaskin spent the 2017 season further proving that he is one of the best running backs to ever play for the Huskies.

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Penn State v Washington Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Husky fans had high expectations for Washington’s running game at the start of the 2017 season, due largely to the presence of Myles Gaskin, Lavon Coleman and four returning starters along the offensive line. With the team in need of a replacement for John Ross at wide receiver, many fans hoped that the team could rely on a steady running game in the season’s early going as the passing offense found its new rhythm. And in broad strokes, that’s mostly how the year played out.

What We Said in the Preseason

In short, there’s no reason that Washington’s ground game should be any less successful than it was last year. The Huskies return their top two rushers from 2016 in Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman, who tallied a combined 2,225 yards and 17 touchdowns, and presumably four of five starting linemen in center Coleman Shelton, left tackle Trey Adams, right tackle Kaleb McGary and right guard Nick Harris. Gaskin and Coleman’s 351 attempts last year represent 85 percent of carries by Husky running backs, meaning that veteran experience will be available on virtually every play in 2017.

By the Numbers

Washington Rushers

Category Result Team Leader Conference Ranking National Ranking
Category Result Team Leader Conference Ranking National Ranking
Attempts 473 Myles Gaskin (222) 8 71
Yards 2,382 Myles Gaskin (1,380) 5 42
Average 5.0 Salvon Ahmed (6.4) 4 25
Touchdowns 37 Myles Gaskin (21) 3 11

Analysis

The level of consistency that Myles Gaskin has shown over the course of his career is downright remarkable: In his freshmen, sophomore and junior seasons, he has:

  • Carried the ball 227, 237 and 222 times;
  • Gained 1,302, 1,373 and 1,380 yards; and
  • Scored 14, 10 and 21 touchdowns.

What’s more, Gaskin has taken snaps in every single one of the 40 games that Washington has played since the 2015 season, rarely missing more than a handful of plays due to injury — all while playing the position with the sport’s shortest shelf life. And as he announced with a simple message on Twitter two weeks ago, Gaskin will return to school next year to play out his final year of eligibility, and is well positioned to rewrite virtually the entire Washington running back record book.

Meanwhile, Lavon Coleman saw the number of his carries shrink fairly substantially from his junior to senior seasons — down from 114 to 89 — but became more involved in the passing game, hauling in 13 catches for 155 yards and three scores. While he never became the featured running back that many fans thought he would earlier in his career, Coleman was an invaluable contributor to the Husky offense, and finding someone to replicate his production and physicality (Coleman measures 5-11 and 228 lbs.) will be one of Keith Bhonapha’s highest priorities in 2018.

Looking toward the future, the player that most wowed Husky fans with flashes of his potential was true freshman and local product Salvon Ahmed, who ran a verified 4.32-second 40-yard-dash at The Opening, a football camp run by Nike, before enrolling in college. Even with reliable veterans like Gaskin and Coleman ahead of him, Ahmed wasted little time in making his impact felt, carrying the ball 20 times in his first three games and scoring his first touchdown against a Pac-12 team in Washington’s conference opener versus Colorado. He figures to be the team’s clear No. 2 running back in 2018 behind Gaskin, and (at the risk of looking entirely too far ahead) will likely be the favorite to supplant him in 2019.

Finally, Washington was able to get reps for young players like Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant throughout the season in garbage time opportunities; though their impact on the 2017 season was minimal, their names are two that fans will likely hear more often in the seasons to come.

Poll

How do you describe Washington’s 2017 rushing offense?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    It exceeded my preseason expectations
    (64 votes)
  • 70%
    It met my preseason expectations
    (438 votes)
  • 19%
    It failed to meet my preseason expectations
    (118 votes)
620 votes total Vote Now