Washington Huskies Football: Who Starts at Running Back?


I’m trying really hard to remember a time when the Washington Huskies had to replace both a dynamic starting quarterback and a record breaking running back, and I just can’t do it. When Locker left and Keith Price took over, he had Chris Polk. When Locker took over for Isaiah Stanback he had Louis Rankin. Going even further back, when Brock Huard took over for big brother Damon he had Rashaan Shehee AND Corey Dillon. When Damon took over for Brunell he got to hand off to Napoleon Kaufman.

So imagine how poor Chris Petersen feels knowing he has to replace nearly 3000 passing yards AND almost 2000 rushing yards? Actually, I bet he feels ok – he has a lot of talent on his roster, albeit unproven. Lucky for him (once again), we here at The Husky Haul are more than willing to advise as to who the next starting running back for the Washington Huskies should be between Jesse Callier, Deontae Cooper, Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman.

Jesse Callier:

The case for: Along with Deontae Cooper, he’s the elder statesman of the group. This is his fifth year in the program, but unlike Cooper, he’s played significantly off the bench in his previous three years of action (not counting 2012 when he was injured, obviously). Before he got hurt in the first game of 2012, he was expected to be the man after the departure of Chris Polk.

The case against: With all of the snaps he’s seen, Callier has really failed to distinguish himself. He does lots of things pretty well, but he’s done nothing that’s been monumental or great – nothing to show that he can be the feature back. He has proven to be a nice change of pace back and done well with the second unit when games are out of reach, but has not provided a knock out blow with regular work.

Deontae Cooper:

The case for: Talk about your feel good stories – three ACL tears in three years and Cooper finally got on the field in 2013 and managed to stay healthy. He flashed the home run ability against Oregon State with two big plays and reminded everybody just how fantastically athletic he is. Nobody on the UW roster has more big play capabilities than Cooper (at least at running back). Having him in the backfield means he’s a threat to take it to the house on every play.

The case against: Three ACL injuries in three years. How much of that explosiveness did those injuries take away from Cooper? We may never know because we were never able to see him play in a game before the knee problems started. Even if he’s 100% healthy and cleared by doctors, there is always going to be the fear that one wrong turn, one awkward juke and his career may be over.

Dwayne Washington:

The case for: Big, fast and strong. He’s 6’1″ 220 lbs, easily the biggest back on the roster.  Bishop Sankey was 5’10” and 195 lbs, and we saw how he ran behind the same offensive line and wore down defenses. Washington came out of high school as a receiver and then switched to running back his freshman year. He also showed flashes of dominance in 2013 behind Sankey – he runs downhill and is a load, especially once he gets to the second level.

The case against: Fumbles. He needs to hold on to the damn ball. Nothing takes the momentum away faster than a fumble on a running play, and Washington had too many of them in 2013. If he can’t get the turnovers under control, there’s no way Coach Pete gives him snaps in 2014.

Lavon Coleman:

The case for: The baby of the group, but also has drawn rave reviews from the previous coaching staff and the current coaching staff. He’s a bowling ball of a running back – defenders seem to bounce off of him, and he’s been so productive in practice that he’s forced his way into the conversation as a redshirt freshman.

The case against: It’s a depth issue. There are two redshirt seniors and a redshirt sophomore ahead of him, all of whom have contributed previously and will get a chance to run wild before Coleman does. Not to fear, young buck. Next year once Callier and Cooper are gone ( I doubt Deontae Cooper sticks around UW for six or seven years), you and Dwayne will form an intimidating one two punch.

The verdict: Dwayne Washington is your starter in 2014, but with a big asterisk. Running back is not like quarterback; you don’t have to have one guy entrenched to maintain continuity. This isn’t the 70’s or 80’s where one back is going to get 300 carries. Last year with Bishop Sankey was an anomaly. Even if Washington starts, we’ll see a steady diet of Cooper and Callier with Coleman ready to jump in if any of the other three struggle. I do think, however, that Washington is going to have a monster year behind this veteran offensive line. He’ll punish defenses and we’ll really see him wear them down late in games.

Bow down and go Dawgs.