University of Washington

UW setting up to deliver knockouts with one-two punch at running back

Myles Gaskin's decision to return for his senior season gives the Washington Huskies a three-year starter who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his campaigns on Montlake.
Myles Gaskin's decision to return for his senior season gives the Washington Huskies a three-year starter who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his campaigns on Montlake.

Washington really doesn't need spring practice to sort out its running back situation. The Huskies knew what they were in strong standing back in January when Myles Gaskin announced he was returning for his senior season.

Gaskin was contemplating making the jump to the NFL but opted to come back for his final year. His decision immediately gave UW a proven starter with few, if any, questions about his ability. It also provided the Huskies with the chance to have a full-time pairing of Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed.

The Gaskin-Ahmed partnership gives the Huskies two playmakers capable of getting into open space and wreaking havoc. Plus, it's just another set of options for new Huskies offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan.

Here's a look at what to watch for with the Huskies' running backs going into spring camp which starts Wednesday.

THE BIGGEST QUESTION IS ... ?

Gaskin has ran for three straight seasons of more than 1,300 yards. He rushed for a career-best 1,380 yards to go 21 touchdowns at a rate of 6.2 yards per carry. It's why Gaskin, whose 45 touchdowns are the most in program history, is 51 yards away from being UW's all-time leading rusher. Ahmed, who will be a sophomore, came away with 61 carries for 388 yards and three touchdowns in his first season while generating a ton of buzz following his first season.

Their ability to run the ball is only part of the intrigue when it comes to what they can do for UW in 2018. It's possible Ahmed and Gaskin could be used as receivers to help the Huskies strengthen the passing game with the team losing senior receiver Dante Pettis to graduation.

Ahmed only had 13 receptions last season but he came away with 77 yards for an average of 5.9 yards per catch. Gaskin's prowess as a receiver as continued to improve over his time with the Huskies. He went from six receptions for 19 yards as a freshman to having consecutive seasons with 19 receptions. As a sophomore, he had 137 yards and a touchdown. Gaskin had 232 yards and three touchdowns last season with his longest reception being a 76-yarder.

Gaskin, who had UW's longest touchdown run last year, also had the team's longest touchdown reception with his 76-yard jaunt. He was also tied for second in touchdown catches, third in yards per catch and fifth in receiving yards.

FAMILAR FACES

One player UW won't see this season is Lavon Coleman. He's gone after running for 407 yards and four touchdowns during the 2018 season.

Having Ahmed and Gaskin will more than make up for his loss. But what are the other options UW has when it comes to its running back situation? The Huskies will have six running backs in camp. Sophomores Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant are the most experienced players beyond Ahmed and Gaskin. McGrew, a former-four star prospect, ran 17 times for 59 yards and two touchdowns last season. Pleasant, who was a three-star recruit, had five attempts for 19 yards.

There's also the possibility the Huskies could involve receivers Trey Lowe and Chico McClatcher in the running game. Huskies coach Chris Petersen presented a scenario in December where the Huskies wouldn't have Gaskin for 2018. He said Lowe and McClatcher's versatility gives the Huskies two players who played the position in high school and could be used, if needed. Lowe, who will be a freshman, ran for more than 1,700 yards as a senior. McClatcher, the News Tribune's All-Area Player of the Year in 2014, ran for 2,283 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior at Federal Way.

GOING FORWARD

Richard Newton won't be in spring camp but he could be someone to look out for as the 2018 season progresses. He was the only running back the Huskies signed in their 2018 class.

Newton was a composite three-star prospect who was considered to be the No. 24 player in the nation at his position. He does more than bolster the depth chart. He gives Washington a bit of size. The 6-foot-1 and 185-pound Newton would be the tallest running back on the roster when he arrives.

UW will also add Jamyn Patu as a preferred walk-on. Patu is coming off a senior season at O'Dea where he was named The Associated Press' Washington Player of the Year. He ran 245 times for 2,181 yards, 28 touchdowns and was averaging 8.9 yards per carry. The 6-foot and 195-pound Patu was offered by Central Washington and Montana before selecting to walk-on at UW.

Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark
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