Husky backfield deeper due to Hasty

Spring football now is in full swing for Washington, which means coaches will get their first real idea of how deep this team is. One area in which the Huskies have more depth this fall is in the backfield, where they return a super athletic signal caller (Isaiah Stanback), and two very competent running backs. But with the Huskies losing James Sims to graduation and with Kenny James and Louis Rankin coming off of injury-plagued seasons, the play of a newcomer may just hold this unit together.

The debut of J.R. Hasty has been long awaited for many Husky supporters, who have been eager to see the 5-foot-11, 200-pound running back in purple since the days when he was tearing up defenses at nearby Bellevue High. Although his debut has been eagerly awaited by others, no one is more excited than he is to get on the field. "I really wanted out there (last year)," he said. "But at the same time, I knew that I can't tell coach (Tyrone) Willingham to put me out there. I really want to get out there so I have to prove it right now. Time went by fast. But it's finally here now, so I'm excited for practice."

Hasty was able to show a great deal of patience last year, when at times it looked like the coaches might burn his redshirt due to injuries. "(Last year) was pretty difficult, but I knew my role on the team and I trusted the coach's decision of red-shirting me," said Hasty. "So I took that and I pretty much just gained more knowledge on the sidelines, just to see all the signals coach gives, and reactions of players and opponents. You get a pretty good view on the sideline so I still learned."

Now it is Hasty's time to shine. Coming from the Seattle area, and with Washington struggling to find their offensive identity, many people are looking for Hasty to step up to the plate this season when called upon. But how will the redshirt freshman deal with the added expectations? "There's always going to be pressure," said Hasty. "I've just got to stay focused and can't let it get to me at all. Obviously I know there's a lot of eyes watching, especially the coaches."

For right now, Hasty is simply trying to master the intricacies of Tim Lappano's offense, while hopefully getting noticed by the coaches. "My main focus is just to get in my playbook, also into school, and just stay focused," explained Hasty.

One thing that is going to help Hasty stay healthy this year is the amount of time he has spent sculpting his body in the off-season. "I worked on strength and getting stronger," he said. "But at the same time, you've got to stay pretty fit. (I worked on) My cuts and change of direction pretty good too. We have a good strength and conditioning coach (Trent Greener). Everybody on the staff, they all want the same goals; get to a big bowl game and even a championship. That should be on everybody's mind for a winner, and I think a lot of guys are trying to be winners."

After how the Huskies finished the last couple of seasons, motivation is clearly something that Hasty and the rest of his teammates don't have to look for. "The past couple of years with Husky football shouldn't be how it's been for a while," he said. "I'm not trying to be part of the team that loses (that tradition). I really dislike losing a lot so I'm not trying to have that same record or season. So I'm trying my best to have everybody get that attitude, that winning attitude, and I think everybody's attitude has changed a lot, over this past year."

With all that being said, what can Husky coaches and fans expect to see from J.R. Hasty this spring? "Just running as hard as I can," he said. "Know all the plays, come out and make smart decisions. Make sure I'm real coachable."

It will be interesting to see if Hasty will be able to dish out some of the same punishment that he did in high school. "I feel I can do that," he said. "I'm pretty low to the ground, so they're gonna have to get pretty low too. I'm not one of those guys that's going to try to shake you just cause you're a little bit taller. If they try to bring the heat, I'm gonna bring it right back too."

For a running back, it might seem strange for a guy to like hitting so much, but not J.R. Hasty. "I guess because my dad (James) plays defense, so I still like hitting some people," said Hasty. "So the contact, it feels good to me." That is definitely a good sign for the Dawgs.

Hopefully J.R. Hasty can find a happy medium between running opponents over and making them miss this year. If he can, the Washington coaches will have another potent weapon at their disposal. And like the Huskies learned the hard way last season, you can never have enough capable, healthy running backs.

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