- Deontae Cooper (5-11, 202, Sr.)
- Dwayne Washington (6-2, 221, Jr.)
- Lavon Coleman (5-11, 222, So.)
- Jomon Dotson (5-10, 174, RFr.)
- Ralph Kinne (5-10, 205, So.)*
- Gavin McDaniel (5-8, 185, RFr.)*
- Myles Gaskin (5-9, 195)
Where does the running back position find itself after spring: With Deontae Cooper out tending to a personal matter and Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman doing just enough to keep up their levels of fitness without enduring much in the way of direct contact, the running back group was all about getting the new faces some much-needed work. So in that way, it was a successful spring, as Jomon Dotson, Ralph Kinne and Gavin McDaniel handled the vast majority of turns.
Here’s what we did find out about each running back during the 15 spring practices held at Husky Stadium:
NotesWith John Ross now gone for the season with injury, Washington is now the fastest man on the offensive side of the ball for the Huskies. He didn’t get a chance to show it during spring all that often, but when he did he left no doubt. After spring Washington feels like the same back he did going in; one that will typically feel around for some yards but then find an open patch and be gone.
NotesColeman dropped a couple pounds in the off-season, but still looks the part of the bruising every-down back he portrayed last fall, especially in the Hawaii opener when he single-handedly sealed up the one-point victory during a final drive that was exclusively his. Springs are never going to be a showcase for his abilities - his domain can be found when the pads are popping.
NotesNot much was seen of Cooper unfortunately, but knowing the senior’s work ethic and his miraculous recovery from three knee tears to run for 555 yards the last two seasons, no one will blink an eye if he comes back as an impact running back.
NotesThis was the first spring for the redshirt frosh, and after gaining 10 pounds in the off-season was eager to show off his new body. Dotson timed in with the second-fastest clock during spring, just behind Washington - as was expected. Speed was his modus operandi coming in and he didn’t disappoint in that area. There’s no question Offensive Coordinator Jonathan Smith will try and use Dotson in a variety of ways to find him some open grass to run into, as Dotson’s quickness and burst will help him take care of the rest.
NotesThe converted fullback from Shelton has always been a very productive back when used as an every down sort, so his transition back to running back has been an easy one. With four scholarship players in front of him and one coming in the fall, it’s doubtful Kinne will generate a ton of playing time, but he can be counted on for ball security and the odd yard here and there when needed.
NotesThe Texas walk-on had the most yards of any running back during the Spring Preview, which is common for those type of events. Like Dotson, McDaniel had added roughly 10 pounds to his frame from a year ago, and looks all the better for it. But unlike Dotson, McDaniel doesn’t have that pure separation speed, so he has to do it with quicks and instincts. He’ll never wow you with his running, but McDaniel will certainly add to the group another competent back that can get tough yards when the team needs him to.
Where will the running backs be as UW heads to fall camp?: Physically-speaking, the running backs are in very good shape. No one was hurt, and they were able to get their wind back. Obviously they won’t be in game shape after April, but no one will be; they did the foundation work required to push their conditioning to the requisite levels come August. The group has great class balance and depth, and they also have a nice mix of tough, between-the-tackles backs and those that can turn the corner and burn.
As of post-spring, the depth chart looks similar to the way it did at the end of 2014; Washington and Coleman will take the lion’s share of the carries, with the hot back ruling the day. Cooper will add his blend of experience and tenacity to the mix, and Dotson will give them more ‘splash’ than they had a year ago. Because the Huskies had to use Shaq Thompson to supplement the run game last season, it skewed the numbers a bit; Dotson will certainly be asked to help balance things out a bit to once again give them five legitimate run threats when you add in whoever starts at quarterback. At this point both Jeff Lindquist and K.J. Carta-Samuels have shown to provide ample production at that spot.
Believe it or not, Washington’s 2014 run game was seventh-best all-time in terms of total yards, and yet the Huskies have the potential to improve on that number. If the quarterback can replicate the 500 yards of Cyler Miles, that means the four running backs would have to run for slightly more than 2200 yards to better last year’s production. Can they do it? Absolutely.
What does Gaskin’s inclusion mean this fall?The O’Dea senior was seen at quite a few spring practices, taking those all-important mental reps just in case he’s asked to play in the fall. Simply put, Gaskin should be put on the Dotson plan - redshirt and then unleash his revamped ‘Body by Tim (Socha)’ next April. But injury can derail the best-laid plan, and if one or more of the current backs gets hurt for any amount of time Gaskin could be asked to play. At 195 pounds he’s more than ready to handle the pounding he’ll see in the Pac-12, and has the speed to cause defenses some bother.
As it is with another true freshman, Jake Browning, Smith and Petersen are hoping for the best - a redshirt season for both - but planning for a worst-case scenario. Expect Gaskin to be brought up to speed during the summer PRP’s post-haste, and if he ends up redshirting all the extra attention during fall will simply speed up his learning curve for next spring - and that’s never a bad thing, as we saw in April with Dotson.