Fall camp begins for the Huskies on Aug. 4, and as we count down to the start of Chris Petersen’s first season at Washington, we’ll preview each position on Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to the start of camp.
Today: Running backs
Who’s gone: Bishop Sankey, who last year established his place among the Huskies’ best ever with a team-record 1,870 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. He was the first running back selected in May’s NFL draft, going in the second round to the Tennessee Titans. Sophomore Ryan McDaniel, who appeared in one game in 2013, retired this offseason because of ongoing knee injuries.
— Deontae Cooper, sr., 6-0, 201 pounds; 2013 stats: 43 carries, 270 yards, 3 touchdowns, 6.3 yards per carry. (Note that Cooper said he has been granted three additional years of eligibility by the NCAA, though the UW roster lists him as a senior.)
— Dwayne Washington, so., 6-2, 221; 2013 stats: 47 carries, 332 yards, 4 touchdowns, 7.1 yards per carry; 1 reception, 5 yards, 1 touchdown.
— Jesse Callier, sr., 5-10, 202; 2013 stats: 48 carries, 213 yards, 3 touchdowns, 4.4 yards per carry; 9 receptions, 53 yards.
— Lavon Coleman, rs-fr., 6-0, 215; redshirted in 2013.
— Ralph Kinne, rs-fr., 5-10, 203 (walk-on); redshirted in 2013.
— Shaq Thompson, jr., 6-2, 231; 2013 stats: 78 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 1 interception return.
— Jomon Dotson, fr., 5-11, 175, American Canyon, Calif. Highlight video.
— Gavin McDaniel, fr., 5-9, 172, Coppell, Texas (invited walk-on). Highlight video.
Outlook: What a story it would be if Cooper, who won the team’s Guy Flaherty Most Inspirational Award last season, emerged as the featured running back this year. Cooper’s three ACL tears will always remain a concern, and perhaps it’s unrealistic to think that he could be a 20-carry-a-game guy, but he was UW’s most dependable back throughout the spring. “I want to attack everything,” he said in April. “I want to be fearless.”
Coleman, after redshirting last season, was a bit of a revelation in the spring, rushing for 99 yards, including 47-yard touchdown run on day’s final play from scrimmage. Callier and Washington, meanwhile, missed most of the spring while battling minor injuries; both are expected to return healthy in August. Callier, the starter to open the 2012 before tearing his ACL, remains in the mix. Washington is probably the most gifted running back on the roster, with an impressive blend of size, speed and physicality. He is a favorite, if not the favorite, to eventually take over as the No. 1 back, though it seems likely that UW will go with a back-by-committee early in the season.
Thompson, as chronicled thoroughly in the spring, has a chance to do for UW what Myles Jack did at UCLA last season, if not become a part-time Beast Mode II for the Huskies. The hunch here is “the experiment” with Shaq in the backfield will be much more than that this fall.