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Spring Position Preview: Running Backs

With less than three weeks before Washington starts their spring football campaign, it's time to roll out the position previews. Today we preview the running backs.

There are few position groups in the conference - dare I say the country - as deep and talented as the Washington Husky running backs.

The leader of the pack, junior-to-be Myles Gaskin, will start this year within reach of a couple school records. Racking up 1375 rushing yards would catapult the Seattle native past the likes of Bishop Sankey, Napoleon Kaufman, and Chris Polk to stand as the career rushing leader. Not to mention, if he can score 14 touchdowns on the ground he’ll pass Bishop Sankey as the rushing touchdown leader. Already one of the best to carry the football in school history, Gaskin figures to shoulder a hefty portion of the load this season.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Lavon Coleman revitalized his career during his junior campaign, finishing as a top 10 rusher in the PAC-12 last season. Even more impressive, his 7.5 yards per carry were only topped by Oregon’s Tony Brooks-James. Built like a freight train, Coleman hits the hole with determination. His 222-pound frame couples nicely with a solid set of wheels.

You’d be hard pressed to find a better one-two punch at the tailback position. It’s also worth noting that Gaskin, with his junior season ahead of him, and Coleman, whose eligibility will expire after the season, have a little extra to play for; both players are NFL-worthy talents that are eligible to be drafted next season. Soak it in, dawg fans. Not every team has the luxury of two backs who could very well play on Sundays the following year.

Jomon Dotson adds valuable depth to an already strong group. When you watch him play, it’s easy to notice his top-notch speed. It might take a bit longer to see just how useful he is in the pass game. Although the scale reads just 174 pounds, Dotson is a very talented pass blocker who specializes at buying his quarterback extra time. Additionally, his speed paves the way for success as a pass catcher as well.

The Huskies finished last season with 2774 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground. They also didn’t lose a single running backs from last season. I am confident saying that Washington has never had a more established stable of tailbacks in my life time than they do this year.

Position Group (By Class)

Lavon Coleman (5-11, 228, Sr.)

Ralph Kinne (5-10, 220, Sr.)*

Myles Gaskin (5-10, 195, Jr.)

Jomon Dotson (5-10, 174, Jr.)

Gavin McDaniel (5-8, 181, Jr.)*

Sean McGrew (5-7, 170, RFr.)

Kamari Pleasant (6-0, 199, RFr.)

Mike Petroff (6-0, 228, RFr.)*

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Projected Depth Chart

Myles Gaskin (5-10, 195, Jr.)

Lavon Coleman (5-11, 228, Sr.)

Jomon Dotson (5-10, 174, Jr.) 

Sean McGrew (5-7, 170, RFr.)

Kamari Pleasant (6-0, 199, RFr.)

Ralph Kinne (5-10, 220, Sr.)*

Gavin McDaniel (5-8, 181, Jr.)*

Mike Petroff (6-0, 228, RFr.)*

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Known Quantities

Three backs will enter spring with pretty established roles. That’s not to say that one can’t push for more carries than the other, but for the most part the Huskies know what they’re getting from Gaskin, Coleman, and Dotson.

That’s a huge benefit for Washington. They know they have already three experienced contributors heading the group. On the field during spring camp or in the meeting room, the younger guys have a handful of veterans to teach them.

Of the three, I’m most excited to see Jomon Dotson. His speed and pass blocking skill have established him as a force in the passing game. If he added some weight this offseason, I could see that yielding an increase in carries this season. If he comes into spring north of 180 pounds, I think his role could expand.

The new guys

I’m most intrigued by the opportunity to watch Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant get some work this spring. With such strength at the top of the position group, I believe that coach Keith Bhonapha will take the opportunity to get his two redshirt freshman as many reps as he can.

McGrew, who was the Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior at St. John Bosco, possesses electrifying speed and quickness. His explosiveness and tendency to make people miss in space offers exciting playmaking ability. The question is how do you get him touches?

A lot of that will depend on how his body has matured after a year with coach Socha. If he comes into spring around 185 pounds, the Huskies have themselves a sturdy, thick ball carrier. If he isn’t quite that heavy, he still fits the mold of a back who can produce as a pass catcher. Whether through screens or lining up out wide, a player of his athletic ability is worth giving as many looks as possible.

Additionally, finding different ways to line him up introduce more versatile ways to use him. Line him up as a receiver and hand it to him on a fly-sweep. Motion him out of the backfield and create a one-on-one matchup with a linebacker in coverage. Or just use him as a traditional running back. Any way you cut it, getting the ball in McGrew’s hands is exciting.

Pleasant, on the other hand, has the body of an every down type of back. The Arizona native split time between receiver and running back in high school, while dabbling on the defensive side as well. His enticing blend of size and athleticism will be a treat to watch this spring.

On paper, he’s the perfect compliment to McGrew. Their contrasting sizes and skill sets set the stage for an exciting future for Washington tailbacks. The Huskies have a bruiser and a cruiser in their redshirt freshmen, both of which will be itching for playing time early in their careers.

What spring means for the running backs

Gaskin and Coleman are solidified as one of the nation’s elite one-two punches. Both will shoulder heavy burdens in the 2017 season. With that in mind, their priority this spring will be getting enough work to stay fresh while resting enough to avoid wearing down. They will both be full participants in drills, but most likely will have limited reps in “live” scrimmages.

For Dotson, McGrew, and Pleasant, spring serves a pair of purposes. First, each player will get to show how they’ve improved over the offseason. Has Dotson added more weight, preparing himself to run between the tackles? Are McGrew and Pleasant more talented pass blockers after a year of working with Keith Bhonapha? Have they all gotten bigger, faster and stronger? We’ll all find out on March 27.

Additionally, each of those players will start to fight for their roles on the team. There are only so many touches to go around, and Gaskin and Coleman are firmly atop the pecking order. The other three will begin their battle for playing time starting this spring. Beyond fighting for carries, each player could fight for different roles on the team as well. Dotson, for example, demands consideration for third down back because of his pass blocking talent. McGrew, with his speed and agility, might assume the gadget-player role Chico McClatcher occupied as a freshman. Pleasant’s body, coupled with his athleticism, could help him emerge as the most versatile of the three, capable of running between the tackles, taking carries outside, as well as making an impact in the pass game. All three have unique talents that will make their playing time competition incredible to watch.

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Spring Position Preview - Quarterbacks


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