Let me get the stats out of the way up front. The two returning starters, Jamal Morrow (pictured above) and Gerard Wicks, showed in their freshman year that they are more than capable of carrying the rock. Morrow averaged 4.0 yards per carry, and Wicks was right behind at 3.8.
Now, some argue there isn’t a big enough sample size from their number of carries, but Wicks and Morrow have explosiveness plus a year of experience -- they can give WSU a respectable running game.
There are plenty of ways why the running game can take a healthy step forward in '15, and the biggest reasons are the guys on the offensive line (no pun intended). With all five starters back, Wicks and Morrow have their best chance yet to give WSU a legitimate running game threat.
More times than not, a young o-line struggles to find their niche with run blocking in a pass-oriented offense. In Mike Leach’s offense, specifically, pass blocking is clearly the most important. However, with the numbers Morrow and Wicks supplied last season, another year for them and the o-line gives the guys up front a great shot to prove they can run block.
Add in a guy like Keith Harrington and the run options increase. He has the best burst of the three ‘backs, and he’s going to get his own.
I believe this season Morrow, Wicks and Harrington will give Leach (and the fans) the confidence to trust the run play being called. He still won't go the ground game as often as others do, but having three different backs who can carry the rock and do different things can be a nightmare for opposing coaches. And that can also take away from their prep on WSU's passing game.
Don’t expect the run game to revolutionize the Cougar passing attack, but if WSU can run instead of relying on a bubble screen or a QB-panic-scramble, the offense will be better as a whole.
During the spring, Falk took snaps under center -- something that has barely happened since Leach arrived in Pullman. Although that formation will see more time, don’t expect a dramatic increase a number of runs just because the play starts there. Audibles, different formations and plenty of other things can make it look like a run play but Leach will flip the script and throw a deep ball.
But an experienced o-line, a pair of experienced ‘backs (and one newcomer), and the never ending illusion of the pass will give the Cougars a rushing attack that is capable of performing in the Pac-12.
I’m not going to go as far as saying WSU will be a top six running team in the conference, but I will say you will see that group post greater rushing numbers, and provide a spark.
WSU this season is capable of running the ball, but it hasn’t quite come yet. Increasing both the number of running plays and the production will enable the team to catch the rest of the Pac-12 off guard. This year, I believe, will see a little more balance out on the Palouse.
Can Washington State run the football?
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