At number 18 is a UW veteran, something you wouldn’t usually say about this group of impact players. But Lavon Coleman has bided his time, waiting for a chance to jump out and be ‘the man’.
It feels like forever ago when he put the Hawaii game on his shoulders at the end, coming up with key third down runs to finally bury a game Warriors team in Chris Petersen’s UW debut.
In the very next game, Coleman ran for 118 yards in Washington’s win over Eastern Washington. That’s the only time Lavon has hit the century mark for UW. His 565 yards as a true freshman were second to Dwayne Washington’s 697 yards.
With Washington set up as the incumbent in 2015, Coleman was put in the position of proving himself all over again. Despite playing in all 13 games, Coleman finished the year with less than a third of his 2014 output - 176 yards on 33 carries. But Dwayne didn’t become Lavon’s playing time nemesis: that turned out to be true freshman Myles Gaskin.
In some ways, Gaskin pulled a ‘Coleman’, using his first year at Montlake to exceed expectations while becoming the first true freshman to ever rush for over a thousand yards. But instead of regressing, Gaskin is expected to match, or even improve, on his 1300-yard effort.
So how does that make Lavon Coleman one of the most valuable players heading into 2016? Let me count the ways.
1) He’s the most experienced returning running back.
2) He’s by far the biggest returning running back, which means UW Offensive Coordinator Jonathan Smith will use Coleman as his short yardage, third down, goal-line option when not going to Gaskin. They really don't have anyone else unless they start looking at the walk-ons for specific roles, so that means Coleman can put his 5.3 yards per rush average last year to good use picking up first downs and touchdowns.
3) He’s the most durable returning running back, mostly because of total games played. Of the 27 career games Coleman has been eligible to play, he’s only missed two to injury. That kind of reliability will be an asset when looking for a change-of-pace.
4) He’s shown he can finish games. Gaskin will be the main threat, but if for whatever reason Myles isn’t available in crunch time, Coleman is more than a serviceable option.
5) He’s coming off a strong spring which saw him bigger, faster, and stronger than ever before. Gaskin’s season has clearly motivated Coleman to step up his game.
If Washington is to have the kind of potent, powerful, productive season running the ball they envision, they need to have more than Myles Gaskin. Lavon Coleman is the backup most prominently poised to take advantage of his opportunities. He doesn’t have to run for 500 yards, but if he does - and Gaskin stays healthy all year long - the Huskies will have accomplished their rush totals for 2016, and then some.