Washington Provides a Spark

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A true freshman isn't usually called on to provide a spark in the first game of the season.

But there was James Washington, the baby-faced running back, seeing his first action of his collegiate career in the fourth quarter of a four-point game.

"As soon as I got in the South Carolina game they were getting on me – 'Come on James we can do it, let's go. Make a big play,'" Washington said.

His first rush went for five yards. With the team struggling to get anything going on offense, offensive coordinator Dana Bible called Washington's number for the next play as well. This time the freshman showed why he was playing, doing his best impression of a water bug as he slipped around the South Carolina defenses for a 12-yard gain. The drive stalled from there, but Washington had already left an impression on the sold-out Carter-Finley crowd.

Generously listed at 6-foot and 180 pounds, there was an assumption among many that Washington would be redshirting his first year in the program. With the return of Toney Baker to go along with Jamelle Eugene, Curtis Underwood and redshirt freshman Brandon Barnes, it looked like the Pack already had a full stable of backs.

But Washington forced his way into the rotation. Still, the true freshman didn't know what his fate would be until the coaches went over the depth chart before the South Carolina game.

"The week before the South Carolina game we all came to the meeting and sat down and the coaches told us what the depth chart looked like and that's when I found out," Washington said. "Coming into that day I had thoughts about [having to redshirt]. But coach gave me the go and I was really excited about that."

Listed as the third-string running back for the opener, he moved up the depth chart when Eugene was forced to miss time with an injury. Like Eugene, he brings an elusiveness to the backfield that goes well with the more traditional downhill running style of Baker.

"Speed, vision and awareness - being able to read my offensive lineman's blocks," Washington said. "I can set up a defender where he thinks I'm always gonna bounce outside but then cut back. Doing things like that can keep the defender off-balance."

"It's harder to defend me when I'm out in space, when it's one-on-one, than when it's in a big crowd when all 11 people are in the box."

Despite his natural talents, Washington has still been learning and listening since he arrived on campus. With Eugene and Baker, who have a combined eight years of college experience prior to this season, he has a pair of mentors with plenty of know-how. One lesson he's learned from the veteran backs is that you can't take a single play off in practice.

"You have to practice like you play. You have to give 100% in practice if you expect to give 100% in the game. You can't just turn the switch on."

Against Murray State, Washington heard his number called a lot more and he made the most of it. While he ran for just 35 yards on 12 carries, he scored two touchdowns on the ground and added three receptions for 28 yards and a touchdown.

"Our passing game is opening up," Washington said. "Every week we are getting better at executing our base run plays. The offensive line is picking it up. I expect we should get better and better each week and keep putting up more points."

But does he really expect to put up more than 65 points?

"I hope so this week – that's our goal. We want to do better than last week."

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