Keith Bhonapha talks running back intangibles

Washington Running Backs Coach Keith Bhonapha spoke Wednesday afternoon to the press after the Huskies' ninth day of fall camp, held inside Husky Stadium.

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On replacing Dwayne Washington “Dwayne (Washington) was a really good player. One of the things with Dwayne, he’s a bigger body, so in pass protection he had some size and some strength that can help you. And obviously his speed out of the backfield catching the football is second to none. I think one of the things Dwayne is under-recognized about is how smart he was when it did come to pass protection and how solid he was in that. That’s some of the things you’ll miss about him. But with that being said I think we have a good group of guys that will collectively be able to fill some of those gaps.”

On Lavon Coleman “He’s continuing to work on just being one of those vertical runners and has to continue doing a good job of using the leverage of blocks and not guessing out of holes and he’s continued to do that this fall camp. As we get forward, Softy just told me we have 17 days left, which I haven’t been on a count down, he has to continue to progress as we move forward.” 

On Lavon Coleman’s increased quickness “I think Lavon (Coleman) has always had some sudden quickness to him and some agility. I think he does have those attributes. Now to say that’s going to be one of his main things out of his tool box, I hope not because you hope a body like that understands that he can get behind my pads and run over some guys. He just has to continue to work on that. I think he has done some stuff to make sure he was a little more agile and was able to make guys miss and things like that.”

On the importance of contributing on passing downs “I think it’s second to none. Because if you have a back back there that can truly go out there and pass protect, it stops defenses form just teeing off on you. If you have a guy back there that knows what he’s doing, is solid in protection, it just helps the offensive unit as a whole. I think it’s one of those things, it’s not the glamorous part of being a running back, but it’s a necessary evil. That’s one of the things I stress to help these guys continue to progress there.” 

Do you emphasize being a target in the passing game as a tailback? “The one thing I try to tell these guys, when we’re in the passing game we want to make sure they take advantage of the opportunities, and when I say that, making sure we’re doing the correct routes, making sure we’re catching the ball, looking it in. Because when we do get the opportunities to catch the ball, a lot of the times we’re wide open and that’s your chance to do something in the pass game to contribute to the offense.” 

On Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant “We’ve had a week, and those guys are young guys and they’re continuing to pick it up and you know how it is when you’re young and you’re brand new; it’s hard. Those guys are really working hard to pick up the offense and grasp it, doing some extra stuff with me as well. I just hope those guys keep progressing day after day. Now at the end of training camp will they know everything like the back of their hands? You would hope so, but I’m not sure about that. But as long as they keep getting better day after day I’ll be happy with those guys.” 

What’s the hardest part of college football for the young guys to pick up? “Protection. Not even close. These guys can run the ball when you hand it to them. I think understanding technique when it comes to pass protection, because a lot of times these guys are doing six-man gap protection and they have a guy on the edge and nobody comes, they’re off on their route, so getting what it means to actually fit up and block somebody is really, really hard.”

Has someone stepped up as the leader? “I wouldn’t say it’s anybody has definitely stepped up and said ‘okay, this is the leader of the room.’ I think all these guys collectively set a good pace when it comes to individuals and stuff like that, going through the drills hard and making sure everybody is up to par. Obviously if it’s not looking right I’ll say something instantly, but I wouldn’t say that. I think these guys do a good job of trying to push each other to get better.” 

Is there more of a comfort level this year knowing who your starter is compared to last year where it took about half the season? “That’s a hard thing to say. You would love to say ‘yeah, I feel great.’ Granted, it’s great that we have Myles (Gaskin) and him getting ready to go into the season. But at the same times we have to push the edge and push the envelope to continue to get better, continue to take the next step. We have 17 days to get to where we need to be." 

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What has Myles Gaskin done to take his game to the next level? “I think he’s becoming more of a student of the game protection wise and understanding what we’re trying to get done. I think he does a better job of really trying to be detailed when you think of aiming points and understanding his reads in the run game. I think he’s coming into it with the mindset that he does have to take the next step focus wise. He’s a returning starter now; he’s no longer the freshman who no one expects.”

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