As it is with the quarterbacks, there wasn’t a lot of controversy heading into spring about who was Washington’s number-one running back. After Myles Gaskin ran for over 1300 yards as a true freshman, it opened up the doors for him to be the incumbent for years to come.
But after Gaskin, there seemed to be some questions. Could Lavon Coleman regain the form that saw him run so well as a true freshman himself? Would spring be when Jomon Dotson’s immense talent sprung to life? Would Sean McGrew show up and upset the whole apple cart with a monster spring?
Well, as it turned out McGrew didn’t make it in time for spring football, so Husky fans will have to wait until the fall to see if he can make a difference as a true freshman.
And, as Chris Petersen said time and time again during spring ball, no game has ever been won in spring. To that end, the running backs got very little ‘live’ action that would lend itself to worthwhile analysis - at least in front of the media. The coaches are cognizant of just how much punishment the backs take during a season, so it wasn’t completely unsurprising that Gaskin got zero carries during the Spring Event. In fact, the leading rusher was a walk-on - Ralph Kinne - as it almost always is during spring games.
Running Backs (by year)
Lavon Coleman (5-11, 220, RJr.) - Coleman had a very good spring, looked quicker than he has before in a long time. The big back has always been dependable between the tackles, but could he find that next gear that he had a couple of years ago? Could he be the back that UW fans saw almost single-handedly salt the Hawaii game away on the final drive with burst after burst?
Ralph Kinne (5-10, 216, RJr.)* - Kinne had a solid spring, as was witnessed by his game-winning touchdown for the Purple team during the Spring Event. The junior from Shelton is another long-time scout team performer who will undoubtedly do more of the same for the Huskies in the fall.
Jomon Dotson (5-10, 175, RSo.) - If UW fans should be excited about one running back this spring, it’s Jomon Dotson. He had a couple of plays during the Heart of Dallas Bowl win that hinted at what the sophomore was capable of, but a full spring gave Dotson the vehicle he needed to break out. We always knew speed was his calling card, but he also has quicks between the tackles, which can help him get around the corner. After that, he’s usually gone. Who knows if he can spell Gaskin in a game and provide the kind of support the Husky running game desperately needs, but he showed in spring he has ability. Now he just has to put it all together when given more opportunities in games.
Gavin McDaniel (5-8, 188, RSo.)* - Didn’t do too much, more of a special teams contributor.
Myles Gaskin (5-10, 193, So.) - Gaskin, for a first-teamer that wasn’t asked to do a ton, was as expected - super solid. He did what he had to do to get his work in and stay fresh and focused on the task at hand. And he is still the unquestioned starter heading into fall. One aspect of his game that did show up time and time again during the spring was his pass protection. Often he’d square up against linebackers 30 pounds bigger than him, like Azeem Victor, and stop them dead in their tracks. He really utilizes low pad level and his sturdy frame to great effect when blocking in the backfield.
Logan Hurst (5-10, 186, RFr.)* - Didn’t do much except get a lot of the mop-up reps.
* = walk-on
Where does the Running Back group stand heading into the summer?
The running back group is in good shape right now, but it had a chance to be in great shape. They get two players in McGrew and Kamari Pleasant, and both could contribute depending on how the season goes, who stays healthy, etc… But right now they have three legitimate productive running backs that can do a variety of things: Dotson is the explosive one, Coleman is the strong one, and Gaskin is the perfect hybrid of both styles.
The losses of Dwayne Washington and Deontae Cooper from this group definitely stings. Ideally it would be nice to have five backs capable of taking over a game, but these three can do it. Dotson is the only one of the remaining group whose feet haven’t been fully thrown into the fire yet. Coleman did it, but it was a while ago. He needs some confident carries during the non-conference games to get his swagger fully back.
And Gaskin is Gaskin: he just seems to be able to put together great runs whether well-blocked or not and is just as capable of turning a negative play into a short gain as he is a short gain into a long touchdown gallop.
The coaches kept this group in cotton during spring, and for good reason. They know how important a functioning run game is to the overall success of an offense. And while we caught glimpses of what Coleman and Dotson have been working on ever since the end of the 2015 season, it’s hard to know just how well they’ll back up Gaskin until the time comes. But those glimpses were a welcome sight.