Where They Stand: A look at UW's RB Position

We continue our position-by-position look at what happened this past season, the returning players and we give our thoughts on what things might look like in 2015. Today, we look at the running back position which has several different pieces to work with, but no clear-cut starter heading into the offseason...

2014 Review – Heading into the season, running backs coach Keith Bhonapha made it pretty clear that he intended to use a “tailback by committee” approach while trying to find a replacement for Bishop Sankey who declared early for the NFL Draft. Lavon Coleman (138 carries, 565 yards, 1 TD) and Dwayne Washington (132, 697, 9 TDs) led the way, but probably the biggest indictment of their efforts was how dynamic of a runner Shaq Thompson proved to be when he was brought over to the offense for a three-game stretch, finishing with 456 yards and two scores, 372 of which came in his three games as a starter. The other player that got regular carries was Deontae Cooper (63, 285), but he was only effective in spots and was never a challenger to be the starter. With various dings and injuries (the loss of Jesse Callier at mid-season to a knee injury was a big blow) as well as spotty play from the quarterback position and inconsistent blocking up front, the three main ball-carriers just never got the ground game going with any consistency. The running game finished by averaging over 188 yards per game , but against the best teams on the schedule, the ground game was unable to find consistent success, doing most of their damage against the lesser teams on the schedule.

Returning Players

Deontae Cooper (5-11, 199) (RS Sr.)
Dwayne Washington (6-2, 220) (RS Jr.)
Lavon Coleman (5-11, 225) (RS So.)
Jomon Dotson (5-10, 165) (RS Fr.)
Ralph Kinne (5-10, 201) (RS So.)*
Gavin McDaniel (5-8, 172) (RS Fr.)*
* denotes walk-on

Incoming Freshman

Myles Gaskin (5-10, 190)

Position Overview

Dwayne Washington - Washington is a big tailback with breakaway speed. What he still seems to be lacking is the natural instincts of a more experienced runner. While he was the Huskies’ big-play threat, Washington too many times either missed a hole or he didn't run with the authority and power you would expect from a player with his size. Another surprise was Washington's inability to be a consistent target as a receiver out of the backfield. Considering he came to Montlake as a receiver before he was moved to tailback, that was a huge let down as it forced the Huskies to use other players on third downs.

Lavon Coleman - The old staff raved about Coleman’s abilities as a runner and said they had a tough time keeping his redshirt on during the 2013 football season. However, once we got a good look at Coleman, what we saw was a player who seemed slow to hit the hole and without much in the way of speed. If the hole is there, Coleman has the ability to find it and run with power, but the problem was that many times this season, Coleman needed to bounce things outside and he lacked the quickness, burst and explosiveness to bounce things outside.

Deontae Cooper - There isn't a better story in college football right now than Cooper. The tailback was a record-setting tailback as a prep, but once he arrived at Washington he was hit with the injury bug, suffering three torn ACLs in his first three seasons on campus. As a result of his injuries, Cooper has lost a lot of explosiveness, but he looked good as a receiver out of the backfield, hauling in 16 receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown. What many will remember is Cooper’s fumble against Arizona which cost the Huskies a chance to get a big win on the road in November, but overlooked would be his solid blocking and locker room presence that the Husky coaches will welcome back with open arms. He’ll likely never be a featured back in Washington’s system, but he loves to play the game, has an infectious personality and he’s a nice depth player who can give you five to 10 carries per game.

Jomon Dotson - We didn’t get to see much of Dotson after the start of the season, but when he did get reps during fall camp that we could witness, he looked very small. Dotson’s game is all about getting into space where he can use his quickness and burst. Hopefully a year in Tim Socha’s strength program will add some size and strength to his frame. We’ll get a good look at him this April when they take the field for spring ball.

Ralph Kinne - Bruising runner who does most of his work during the week, giving the defense looks on the scout team. We’ll have to see if Kinne can make it onto the field as a special teams player in 2015.

2015 Preview - With Gaskin already in the fold, the Huskies have a young man who can be a great tailback in their system down the road, but the 2015 season will continue to see a battle between Washington and Coleman for the starting spot. Could a player like Chris Warren, the second-ranked running back in the country who will visit Montlake later this month, come in and start right away? I wouldn’t put that out of the realm of possibility with the lackluster running game the Huskies put out on the field at times. Obviously another year as a tailback will help Washington get a better feel for how to run the ball and a full year under Bhonapha’s tutelage should reap benefits as well, but this unit, which spoiled Husky fans with players like Chris Polk and Sankey for five seasons, definitely has a ways to go to get back to where they need to be in order to be a consistent threat against the best teams Washington faces on a yearly basis.

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