Fall Position Preview - Running Back

With less than 50 days to Washington's September 3rd opener versus Rutgers, it's time to ramp things up with our fall position previews. Up today is a look at the Husky running backs.

Monday we feted Jake Browning with all the national accolades we could find. It's not hard to double-up when talking about Washington sophomore running back Myles Gaskin. 

Athlon picked Gaskin as a first-team All-Pac-12 running back with Oregon's Royce Freeman. 

The Sporting News called Gaskin the most elusive running back in the Pac-12. 

Phil Steele and Lindy's has Gaskin a second-team All-Pac-12 pick. 

Here's a quote about Gaskin from a Pac-12 defensive coach (per ESPN): "He's just great in short areas and quick as a frickin' hiccup. His feet are unbelievable. His ability to make people miss is special. I'm just thinking of some plays against him and I'm like, 'How in the heck did he get out of that?' He's so fast and decisive and powerful." 

It's no wonder so many of the preseason magazines have Washington making big jumps in 2016. The maturation of players like Gaskin is key to their success, and even though Gaskin ran for more yards as a true freshman than anyone else in Washington history he's expected to get even better this fall. 

That's a scary thought. 

A good basis for comparison is Washington's last back-to-back 1000-yard rusher - Bishop Sankey. In his second season, Sankey ran for 1439 yards, and his last year 1870 yards. If Gaskin could match those numbers, he would become the top net rusher in the history of the program. He would best Napoleon Kaufman by 500 yards, so the pace Gaskin is on - and it's very much within his grasp - is record-setting. 

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Running Backs (by year)

Lavon Coleman (5-11, 220, RJr.)

Ralph Kinne (5-10, 216, RJr.)* 

Jomon Dotson (5-10, 175, RSo.) 

Gavin McDaniel (5-8, 188, RSo.)*

Myles Gaskin (5-10, 193, So.) 

Logan Hurst (5-10, 186, RFr.)* 

Sean McGrew (5-7, 173, Fr.)

Kamari Pleasant (6-0, 195, Fr.) 

* = walk-on

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Projected Depth Chart

Myles Gaskin (5-10, 193, So.)

Lavon Coleman (5-11, 220, RJr.)

Jomon Dotson (5-10, 175, RSo.) 

Sean McGrew (5-7, 173, Fr.)

Kamari Pleasant (6-0, 195, Fr.)

Ralph Kinne (5-10, 216, RJr.)*

Gavin McDaniel (5-8, 188, RSo.)*

Logan Hurst (5-10, 186, RFr.)* 

* = walk-on

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Where does the Running Back group stand heading into the fall? 

Let's be honest: not much happened with the running backs during spring football. They weren't let out of the cage much at all, and Gaskin got a ton of conditioning and the reps he required but was kept in bubble wrap for all of April. 

It was all for a very good reason. Chris Petersen has talked at length in the past about how the running backs take the most punishment of any position group once the season starts, so he wants them to be 100 percent fresh and raring to go by September. 

While players like Lavon Coleman and Jomon Dotson took the lion's share of turns in spring, they needed the work. It may be easy to pencil them into specific roles and responsibilities, but the fact is they may need to go the rest of the year at a moment's notice. That's the life of a running back at the top level of college football. 

Coleman is the bigger back, Dotson the speed merchant. But both need to show they can be the man when called upon. Coleman has done that in the past: in fact his first game as a true freshman at Hawaii showcased his ability to put the load on his shoulders in crunch time. Dotson is still unproven in that area, but flashed his considerable talents during spring. 

Gaskin's running style gives him a great chance at avoiding big shots. He's tough to bring down on contact, and his anticipation and vision are some of his best traits. He doesn't run tall like Dwayne Washington, which means his lean provides tougher angles for defenders to square him up. 

If Washington's running back group is going to allow quarterback Jake Browning the ability to keep defenses off-balance, they have to be able to throw multiple fresh backs to keep pounding the rock. That means the play of Coleman and Dotson is critical to UW's offensive success this fall. There's no escaping the fact that there's going to be some drop-off when Gaskin needs a breather: he's the number-one guy for a reason. But if Coleman and Dotson can minimize that gap the odds of the Huskies finding that elusive consistency on offense increase. And those odds may increase dramatically. 

Three backs is a minimum, so it's important that Washington brought in two potential impact running backs for the fall in Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant. 

On paper they look like the compliment each other well. McGrew's speed kills, and Pleasant appears physically to be almost a like-for-like switch with Washington. He may not have Dwayne's open field speed, but Pleasant sure looks the part of a future 220-pounder who can do as much damage in the pass game as he should getting handoffs. 

In an ideal world you'd love to stick McGrew and Pleasant away for a rainy day, but players of that talent level don't come to Washington to sit. Depending on how ready they are to compete from Day One we'll see how big a factor they are, especially as the season goes on and the weekly wear and tear starts to take its toll.


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