Washington Football spring training position review: Running Back

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 09: Running back Salvon Ahmed (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 09: Running back Salvon Ahmed (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /

The Washington Football team prepares for a new season with their annual spring training. Our first focus is on the running back position

The Washington Football team is getting ready for the 2018-2019 football season. The team welcomes 21 new prospects in the 2018 recruiting class. Plus the team has a transfer student from Georgia. But perhaps the most intriguing position for this spring training is the running back position.

While the return of running back Myles Gaskin has certainly taken some of the guesswork out of this season’s starting rusher, there is plenty of intrigue with the position this year. Primarily, the Washington Football team offense is now in the capable hands of offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan.  Will he lean more to the pass or more to the run?  And if he goes pass, will he feature running backs as receivers or as pass blockers to pick up blitzers?

What to look for

Spring training is the first look for coaches to see players together. And while there is still room to maneuver on the roster in the fall, the true ranking of players happens in the spring.

Best position competition:

The third running back position is a wide open spot on the roster this season. Behind senior Myles Gaskin there are no junior running backs. Last season, the Huskies featured Myles Gaskin, Lavon Coleman, and Salvon Ahmed in that order. With Coleman graduating and turning pro, the logical effect is to see Ahmed promoted to the reserve back role.,

New faces

That means the team will have a new slot for the remaining five running backs: Kamari Pleasant, Sean McGrew, Nate Ihlenfeldt, Paul Wells and Richard Newton. All are sophomores with the exception of redshirt freshman Ihlenfeldt and freshman Newton.

Ihlenfeldt is a Green Bay Notre Dame prospect whose workhorse production of 2253 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns in 342 carries were enough to get him an offer from Washington. It will be intriguing to gauge his performance among running backs.  Likewise, this will be the first chance to get an impression of freshman runner Richard Newton. Newton has the the right size and reputation to get some carries for the coaches. Newton has the right chops to earn a Coleman-like role in the Huskies offense. He is a downhill power runner, with a quick burst and surprisingly effective piston-popping strides which punish would-be tacklers.

New Opportunities

No runner playing behind Ahmed last season put up many yards.  In fact, only Sean McGrew put up a pair of touchdown runs last season.  And with no clear front-runner, there is an opportunity for one of the freshmen to earn some consideration.

The passing game is another new opportunity for running backs to make inroads in the 2018 offense. Last season, Pleasant has a 20 yard reception against rival Washington State.

Hamdan may look to jumpstart the passing offense by making running backs more involved in the passing game. We analyzed the passing game last season, and found that the team had trouble connecting with wide receivers.  A possible solution to that is to open games with short high percentage passes to running backs to stymie the pass rush. Then, when the defense is lulled to complacency, open up to the wide receivers.

What not to look for:

Don’t look for anyone to replace either Gaskin or Ahmed. The pair can sit out until game day and not be threatened in their roles for the upcoming season.  So the top two spots are spoken for. That still leaves plenty of competition among the remaining five rushers for roles.  Those roles could be blocking, pass catching, rushing, or even on special teams play and tackling.

There won’t be final decisions made in the spring. But the groundwork of who can do what will be established. And that is what we will try to focus upon as spring training gets underway. It’s already an exciting time to be a Washington Football fan. It all starts this week