UW running backs coach Keith Bhonapha on Ahmed: "Obviously, as a staff we’re really happy with what we’ve seen so far.”
Salvon Ahmed had just completed his freshman year at Kirkland’s Juanita High School when Washington running backs coach Keith Bhonapha got his first glimpse of some film of the young running back.
Bhonapha didn’t need to see much — he didn’t even see the recruit in person — before realizing he needed to make Ahmed a formal scholarship offer.
“Everyone (at the time) was like, ‘Are you sure you want to offer this guy?’” Bhonapha recalled Tuesday. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m 100 percent sure.’”
Likewise, observers of the first two days of the Huskies’ fall camp this week didn’t have to see much to recognize the potential impact Ahmed could have on the UW offense as a true freshman.
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For a record-breaking offense that returns nine starters from the Peach Bowl, there isn’t an obvious need for Ahmed to fill. But by experimenting with Ahmed at both running back and wide receiver already in camp, UW coaches have made it clear they’re going to find a role, however big or small, somewhere on the field.
“Obviously, anything’s possible,” Bhonapha said. “Obviously, as a staff we’re really happy with what we’ve seen so far.”
Ahmed, at 5-feet-11 and 189 pounds, might already be the fastest player on the roster, with a reported 40-yard dash time in the 4.3-second range.
“He’s extremely fast,” senior receiver Dante Pettis said, “and we could always use a fast guy on the field. I would love to have another guy out there who could take the top off of defenses.”
UW coaches have compared Ahmed’s situation to that of running back Myles Gaskin, who entered fall camp as a true freshman in 2015 without an obvious path to playing time. Gaskin, of course, wound up leading the team in rushing yards that year, setting a number of freshman records along the way.
Gaskin doesn’t doubt Ahmed’s potential to do something similar somewhere, anywhere, on the field this season.
“I’ve known Salvon for awhile now. He’s a good, great person and he’s a ballplayer,” Gaskin said. “He’s fast — he’s really fast. And he’s a tough kid and I can’t wait to see him play.”
At Juanita, Ahmed played both running back and defensive back, and some colleges recruited him to play defense. He spent most of this summer working out with UW running backs, and only in the last couple weeks was asked to sprinkle in some drills with wide receivers.
“We’re just trying to figure out all the stuff he can do and then (later) pare it down and go from there,” Bhonapha said. “He’s such a good athlete that I’m pretty sure if we took him out on a golf course he’d look pretty natural too.”
The Huskies have only had two practices — the first without helmets, and the second without any pads — so the real test for Ahmed will come in the next couple weeks, when the pads come on and guys like Azeem Victor and Vita Vea are trying to take him down.
“The thing that’s most impressive with him is just how football smart he is, how he picks things up,” Bhonapha said. “He’s not afraid to (be) coached, he’s not afraid to ask questions. He’s one of those guys who’s constantly trying to work.”