I don’t want to lie to you all. Originally, this was going to be who will the Huskies in yards from scrimmage. And I still think it’s possible that a receiver ends up with more yards than any of the individual running backs this year. However, the last time a Husky receiver ended up with more yards from scrimmage than the leading running back? The dreaded 2008 season. That year there were 3 Dawgs who received between 63 and 76 carries and none of them had more than 338 yards while D’Andre Goodwin had double that many receiving yards. Suffice it to say, it isn’t all that likely.
The only times it has happened are essentially when the Huskies go by running back by committee which has really only happened since 2008 once (in 2014 with Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman). But this year appears to be shaping up as the most likely to see an odd division of carries since then. So how are we handicapping the race?
Newton is the leading returner in both carries and rushing yards so he has to come in as the favorite until proven otherwise. The last Husky leading returner to not be the surefire starter was the aforementioned Dwayne Washington who was usurped by true freshman Myles Gaskin in 2015. Since then Gaskin had the job locked down and handed it off to his heir apparent in Salvon Ahmed. There are arguments on both sides for Newton being worthy or not to pick up the mantle.
First, the pros. Newton was used primarily as a short yardage back and for the most part he got the job done. Newton’s success rate in 2019 was 53% which was almost identical to that of Salvon Ahmed. The yards per carry might not quite have been there for Newton but if you needed 3 yards then he was going to get you those 3 yards more often than not.
The flip side of course is focusing on the yards per carry number. Newton got hurt against Stanford and it seemed like it took him a few games once he came back to get back up to speed. But even taking that into account, it’s still a little worrisome that Newton’s season high was just 23 yards and it came on his first carry against Eastern Washington. Are the Dawgs going to give the job outright to someone who hasn’t shown the potential to be a home run threat? It wouldn’t be a shocker to see Newton be the primary short yardage back but not necessarily be getting the carries on 1st and 10 to start drives.
Injuries took their toll on McGrew again last season but when he was in the lineup he was explosive. McGrew averaged better than 6 yards per carry last season and had multiple games with over 100 yards on the ground. He’s by far the smallest back on the team which may not be a benefit given position coach Bhonapha has spoken about the intentionality behind the strategy of focusing on bigger guys at that spot. However, McGrew’s agility is unmatched by the rest of the backs and he has both the top end speed and the wiggle to squirt through congestion in the middle of the field.
McGrew also has the benefit of being the known entity among the backs as a pass catcher with 16 career catches for 148 yards. That could lead to him getting a lot of work on passing downs and pad his rushing stats with some draws on 3rd and long. I would consider it a solid bet that McGrew leads the group in yards per carry again this season but the question is whether he’ll get enough touches to ascend to the top of the stats table.
It would’ve been interesting to see if Davis’ usage last season would have been different if the coaching staff weren’t concerned with preserving his redshirt. He only had 2 official carries but also had a really nice gain in the bowl game called back for an iffy holding penalty that didn’t seem to affect the play. If Newton is the pounding short yardage option and McGrew is the agile speedster then Davis seems to be the closest thing to a mix between the two. There’s absolutely no guarantee that Davis ascends up the depth chart but at the same time it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if he were to become the primary back on first downs. If you’re into darkhorse picks that aren’t really darkhorses but still allow you to say you’re going against the grain then Davis is the option for you.
Let’s be real. Something probably has gone terribly wrong if Pleasant ends up leading the Huskies in rushing yards. 2019 was an unmitigated disaster for him. He averaged just over 2 yards per carry, had just an 18.8% success rate and made some crucial mistakes down the stretch in the loss to Oregon. However, he has featured prominently in at least one of the practice videos that the team has put out and he is a senior so don’t expect him to go away entirely. And Pleasant averaged better than 5 yards per carry in 2018 so it’s hard to think that he is just completely inferior to the rest of the UW backs despite looking that way for much of last year. Kamari gained 17 pounds in the offseason so if anything happens to Richard Newton he should at the least have a shot to get some of the short yardage/goal line work.
Who will lead the Huskies in rushing yards this season?
This poll is closed