Fall Camp Preview: Running Backs

In part three of our Fall Camp Preview, we take a look at the running backs, a position that had a lot of uncertainty heading into the 2012 season, but seems to be much more settled as we get ready for the 2013 campaign. The Huskies feature experience and several different skill sets that could be intriguing pieces for the coaches to use this fall...

The Players:


Tailbacks
Bishop Sankey (Jr., 5-10, 200) - With the graduation of Chris Polk, everyone expected Sankey and Jessie Callier to split carries. However, the latter went down with a knee injury in the first quarter of Washington's opening game and the rest was history. All Sankey did was go out and rush for 1,439 yards with 16 touchdowns. Even more impressive was how the Spokane native got better as the season went along, finishing the season off with a flourish by rushing for a school bowl-record 205 yards and hauling in six reception for 74 more and scoring three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) on the day. Sankey isn't big, but he's elusive and he's a one-cut-and-go type who plants his foot and gets through the hole quickly. He's also proven to be an asset in the passing game when called upon and you can probably expect that to happen a lot more this fall.

Jesse Callier (RS Jr., 5-10, 211) - Callier has shown flashes in his three years on campus, but he has yet to carry the full load of the offense on his shoulders. Last season, as noted above, Callier blew out his knee in the first quarter in the opener, so he will have gone almost a full year since he's played some football. Callier is an instinctive runner with good burst and speed. He isn't going to break many tackles, but that isn't his game. Watching Sankey have the success he did last year had to be a real motivation for Callier to get healthy and show the coaches he can still be counted on to be the guy they signed back in 2010.

Dwayne Washington (RS Fr., 6-1, 225) - Washington was delayed in his enrollment last fall, so this will be his first chance to see the field in live action. He had an outstanding spring after moving from receiver to tailback and Steve Sarkisian noted in his Pac 12 Media Day session that Washington is one of the players he is most excited to see this fall. He's a physical runner with enough speed to break long runs, but he needs to show he can consistently get those yards after contact.

Deontae Cooper (RS So., 6-1, 210) - If there were ever a player who had the fans behind him than Cooper, I'd like to know who it is. The talented tailback showed up with much fanfare and was one of the top tailbacks in the country when he signed in 2010. However, after a solid spring, he blew out his knee early in fall camp that year and has missed the last three seasons with torn ACLs. Cooper, like Callier, is an instinctive runner and, at least before his injuries, he had breakaway speed. Now, most people would just be happy to see him last through fall camp and to get a carry in a game. We'll see if he can stay healthy, but if there is anyone who can persevere through what he's been through, it's Cooper.

Ryan McDaniel (RS Fr., 6-0, 227) – McDaniel showed up to Washington in the spring of 2012 with a torn ACL he was recovering from and it has taken a while for him to get healthy. However, during the spring, he was full go and he will battle Washington for the big-back role in the Husky offense. Kendyl Taylor (So., 5-10, 200) - Taylor is sort of a jack-of-all-trades, so he'll see carries in the backfield, but he'll also go out to the slot and out wide as a receiver. He'll likely get some fly sweeps as well. Taylor is a talented player who comes from one of the top football programs in Arizona and when he arrived at Washington, he almost immediately saw playing time. With a year under his belt, expect him to be much more of a factor in the Washington offense than he was as a freshman.

Lavon Coleman (Fr., 6-2, 209) - Coleman is a talented back with a lot of promise, but the hope is that he can redshirt and be ready to go as a redshirt freshman in 2014. He showed good hands as a receiver at various camps, but at Lompoc (Ca.) High school, he wasn't used much in the passing game. He suffered a deep thigh bruise as a senior, causing him to miss most of the season, but he did help lead his team to 32-straight victories, so he's a winner.

Fullbacks
Psalm Wooching (RS Fr., 6-3, 230) - Because the Huskies already had a good and experienced starter at fullback (Jonathan Amosa), they were allowed the luxury of redshirting Wooching last fall and that should pay dividends this fall as he seemed physically ready to go this spring after adding some size. The native of Hawaii is a very good athlete and should provide a boost in the passing game that hasn't been there from the fullback position for a while. Wooching has the chops to be a very good lead-blocker and he showed some promise during the spring, but he needs to continue to progress in order to be used as a weapon in the attack.

Cooper Pelluer (RS Jr., 6-3, 230) - Pelluer has struggled with injuries almost from the moment he arrived at Washington. He's very athletic and could be a real asset if he could just stay on the field. The coaches will take things slow with him during camp, hopeful to get him out of it relatively healthy so they can see what he can do on the offensive side of the ball (he played linebacker as a freshman) during the season.


The Depth: Heading into fall camp, it is pretty clear that Sankey is the unquestioned first-team tailback on the team. He was used sparingly during the spring so as to give the younger players more reps and opportunities to show the coaches what they can do, but expect him to get the bulk of the carries once the season gets under way. The coaches are very comfortable with Sankey as a ballcarrier and they also noted in the spring how sound he was from an assignment standpoint. Behind him you can expect both Callier and Washington to get carries and reps due to their explosiveness (Callier) and size (Washington) and you will also see Taylor get a lot of reps as well. McDaniel could wind up being a nice short-yardage guy and may eventually work his way up to more reps, but he was clearly behind Washington following spring practice. It will be interesting to see how Cooper fits into the mix. If he can stay healthy you can probably expect him to see some action in certain situations this fall. At fullback, Wooching's athleticism and skills make him a perfect fit for what Washington likes to do with their fullbacks and he appears to have the lead, if for no other reason than the coaches want to make sure Pelluer is healthy before he goes out on the field again.


The Battles: Even though Wooching is the odds-on favorite to win the starting job at fullback, if Pelluer can stay healthy, he will definitely have a battle on his hands.

At tailback, Washington and Callier appear to be poised for an epic battle during the fall to see who Sankey's primary backup is. Make no mistake, both can handle the reps and the workload and both bring different skill sets to the table. Because of his experience, Callier appears to have the slight edge, but Washington's size/speed combination could be too intriguing to pass up. Don't count Taylor out of things either, but he seems to be destined for situational work this season and will have different packages worked into the game plan to use his versatility and skills.


The Future: The future for the running back spot looks very bright as both McDaniel and Washington are just redshirt freshmen and Coleman has workhorse written all over him once he redshirts. Throw in the fact that Sankey will only be a junior and could return in 2014 if the siren song of the NFL doesn't lure him away and you could be looking at one of the deepest positions on the team next year. Washington is also in on two of the top tailbacks in the country in Joe Mixon and Demario Richard, so this will remain a position of focus and importance moving forward as well.


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