Position Breakdown: Tailbacks and Fullbacks

In the second installment of our series on the future of the Washington Football program, we take a look at the running backs and fullbacks that will help lighten to load on Jake Locker in the 2008 season.

Tailbacks

Returning: J.R. Hasty (Rs. Jr.); Brandon Johnson (So.); Brandon Yakaboski (Rs. Fr.); Willie Griffin (Rs. Fr.)
2008 Recruiting Class: David Freeman; Chris Polk; Terrance Dailey; Demetrius Bronson

This is the deepest the running back position has been in years and there are some talented prospects coming on board next fall. Each prospect brings a different attribute to the offense and it will be up to offensive coordinator Tim Lappano and whoever is hired on as the new running backs coach to work out the rotation that fits the prospects best.

While this is a very deep group of talented prospects, it's still very inexperienced and they will all go through some growing pains next fall.

Johnson is the most experienced back returning and he amassed 196 yards and two scores while spelling Louis Rankin this past fall. Now, Johnson will enter spring as the projected starter.

He runs with a good forward lean and, as the coaches like to say, he runs behind his pads well, meaning he squares up and hits the hole hard. He doesn't dance and he's a tough inside runner when he's called upon to do that.

Like most young backs, Johnson needs to add some bulk to his frame and get better at picking up the blitz protections that backs are required to have down in order get more playing time.

Hasty has had a mercurial career at Washington so far.

After earning scout team honors all year for his work with the prep team as a true freshman, he missed the entire 2006 season while getting his academics in order.

Then in 2007, he fell behind some of the young backs in the rotation and left the team for a short time before returning and finishing out the season as the fourth option in the running back rotation.

Hasty isn't a speed back or someone who will make a lot of defenders miss, but he's got good vision and he's a north-south runner and any coach will tell you that's the type of runner they prefer.

Will he ever realize his potential? Only time will tell.

The coaches raved about Yakaboski in fall camp and his toughness. Two concussions caused him to redshirt when some felt he might end up as the backup to Rankin.

The talented and physical runner from Mt. Si High School has the size that Lappano has been looking for in a big, bruising back to fit into his scheme. Teaming with QB Jake Locker, Yakaboski could add yet another physically imposing runner to the mix.

Griffin is a Willie Hurst-type, who has a smallish frame, but gets the most out of his abilities. He runs hard, cuts on a dime and has excellent vision. It's all just a matter of time and getting reps in what has turned out to be a crowded unit.

A year in the weight room has really benefited the young man from the Bay Area and he's ready to push Johnson for playing time.

Of the four verbals to the 2008 recruiting class, the biggest coup so far has been the ability of Tyrone Willingham and the staff to convince Polk to switch his commitment to the Huskies.

Polk is about as talented a back as there is coming out of California this year (excluding Darrell Scott) and he's a playmaker when he gets the ball in his hands. USC wanted to use him at wide receiver, but his wish is to play tailback and he'll get every opportunity to do that with the Huskies.

Freeman is an interesting player. His head coach is a former Husky – Charles Mincy – and the old Dawg said Freeman is the best player he's coached and that he's a player that hasn't had a lot of help over the past two years.

Freeman has become accustomed to making his own yardage and he's got excellent speed and quickness to get to the edge and take it the distance. He's also very shifty, able to move well inside the tackles with quick cuts and bursts of speed. There's a chance he could end up at defensive back somewhere, but early on, he'll get every opportunity to make a name for himself in the Washington backfield.

Dailey and Bronson are prospects that put up huge numbers, but they may not have the overall speed necessary to be a Pac 10 running back, but both will get an opportunity early to show what they can do.

Bronson has good vision and quickness, but he might be better suited at safety where he can use his outstanding instincts and good speed to make plays.

Dailey looks like a fullback, but some have compared him to Boise State's Ian Johnson with his cutting ability and vision. His only issue is the lack of top-end speed and the fact that he didn't play against the highest level of competition in California.




Fullbacks

Returning: Luke Kravitz (Rs. Sr.); Paul Homer (Jr.); Austin Sylvester (Rs. Fr.); Tobias Togi (Rs. Fr.)*

Kravitz and Homer both had outstanding seasons for the Huskies in 2007.

Kravitz was the short-yardage back and put up four touchdowns on the season. Homer is the better athlete and he's a devastating lead-blocker. Throughout the year both made teams pay with their bruising styles.

Of the two, Homer is the more dynamic player – able to block, catch and run with equal effectiveness – but Kravitz is probably the better runner at this point.

Sylvester is in the mold of Kravitz, while Togi looks a lot like San Diego FB Lorenzo Neal who has led the way for several big time running backs in the NFL – LaDanian Tomlinson and Eddie George among them.

Neither has seen the field yet so they are unknown quantities at this point, but the coaches seem to like their futures at the position.


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