A position-by-position analysis of the 2015 Washington Huskies roster before national signing day on Feb. 4. Today: Running backs. Wednesday: Wide receivers.
2014 review: Replacing Bishop Sankey proved more difficult than imagined. The Huskies’ best linebacker ended up being their best running back in 2014, a sign of the inconsistent and uncertain play from the Huskies’ “core four” back-by-committee approach early in the season. Injuries were a big factor: senior Jesse Callier, the team’s most experienced back, ruptured his Achilles on the opening kickoff against Georgia State in September and missed the rest of the season. He finished his senior season with 19 carries for 91 yards and one touchdown. Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman showed some flashes early, but neither did much to separate himself. Both then went down with injuries against Oregon, sidelining them for several weeks and prompting Shaq Thompson’s switch from linebacker. Thompson rushed for 372 yards in his three games as UW’s featured back and his average of 7.5 yards on his 61 carries this season was the best in the Pac-12. For the first time since 2008, the Huskies didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher — even though they wound up running the ball more frequently than anyone in the Pac-12, with 60 percent of their 1,007 total plays featuring a run. They did finish the season with a respectable 188.6 yards per game and 4.35 yards per carry, thanks in large part to a strong November kick from Dwayne Washington.
Who’s out: Jesse Callier, sr., 5-10, 206
Who’s in: Myles Gaskin*, 5-9, 185, O’Dea HS
Current roster (with 2014 stats):
— Dwayne Washington, jr., 6-2, 219 (132 carries, 697 yards, 9 TD)
— Lavon Coleman, so., 5-11, 217 (138 carries, 565 yards, 1 TD)
— Deontae Cooper, sr., 5-11, 199 (61 carries, 284 yards)
— Jomon Dotson, r-fr., 5-10, 164 (redshirt season)
— Ralph Kinne, so., 5-10, 201 (did not have a carry)
— Gavin McDaniel, r-fr., 5-8, 172 (redshirt season)
2015 outlook: By mid-November, Dwayne Washington was back healthy and looked poised to take hold as the No. 1 runner going forward. He had a career-high 148 yards and two TDs against Arizona and finished the regular season with two more 100-yard games, with 383 yards and five touchdowns over UW’s final three games, with four TD runs of 50 yards or more. The Cactus Bowl was certainly a disappointment, with Washington rushing for 42 yards on 13 carries. But his mix of size and speed is a rare combination. “This dude,” running backs coach Keith Bhonapha said last month, “is going to be special.”
Coleman, as a redshirt freshman, ended up with the most carries on the team this fall. He’s a durable back who should offer more between-the-tackles power to complement Washington again next season. Deontae Cooper continued to inspire this fall, albeit in a limited role, and he will return in 2015 — with still another year of eligibility remaining in 2016, if he chooses to use that seventh year. He also had 16 catches in 2014, including a touchdown, and appears motivated to earn a bigger role next season. It’s hard to figure the likes of Jomon Dotson or Myles Gaskin, a redshirt candidate, getting many carries right away in 2015, but as we saw this fall, depth is vital at running back.
— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) November 23, 2014
*Made verbal commitment to UW. National signing day is Feb. 4.