Rhythm on one side.
Rotation on the other.
What’s best for Washington’s running backs?
There are basically two schools of thought.
School A: Running backs require a number of carries to get a feel for the game. The more carries they get, the stronger they become. When defenses wear down, a workhorse back begins to enforce his will. Under this theory, UW should decide on its best back (or two) and feed them 15-20 carries over the course of a game.
School B: A strong running back rotation allows UW’s offense to attack a tiring defense with replenished sets of legs. Who cares if a running back spends two quarters standing on the sideline? He’s not “cold.” He’s “fresh.” And when defenses wear down, the offense capitalizes by mercilessly rotating energized backs. Under this theory, three to four running backs should each earn between four and 10 carries over the course of a game.
In the first seven games of UW’s 2021 season, UW has consistently belonged to School B.
But there’s an argument to be made on the other side of the spectrum.
“I feel like in the game of football everybody needs to get in a rhythm, needs to get warmed up and in the groove of things,” said redshirt freshman running back Cameron Davis, who has rushed for 95 yards and three yards per carry while receiving only sporadic work this season. “So for that question I would say yeah, for sure. I need to get in a good rhythm, get a couple carries to get things going. I feel like it would be the same for others, too.”
As for the others: sixth-year senior Sean McGrew has led the way with 269 rushing yards, 3.7 yards per carry and six touchdowns (on 73 carries), while Kamari Pleasant has added 259 rushing yards and 6.5 yards per rush on 40 carries. Sophomore Richard Newton — who rushed for 138 yards with 3.5 yards per carry and one touchdown in four games — is out for the season with a torn ACL suffered in the loss to UCLA on Oct. 16.
In recent weeks, Husky coach Jimmy Lake has been asked variations of the same question:
Who’s UW’s starting running back?
And how much does the answer actually matter?
“I love all of our running backs,” Lake said Monday. “If I was a running back I would want to be the second or third one in, because you’re the freshest and the defense is worn down. That’s what you see (happen).
“I like all three running backs. If Cam Davis would have started and Kamari (Pleasant) would have come in (next) and then Sean McGrew comes in at the end? (McGrew) would have had the stats that Cam had and would have scored the touchdown (Davis scored against Arizona). We have three really good running backs that we all feel really good about. I think every single game, when you’ve seen the second or third guy go in and he goes out there and makes plays, it’s because he’s fresh and the defense is worn down.”
Statistically, Lake may be onto something. In UW’s last three games, the Huskies have rushed for 101 yards and 2.02 yards per carry in the first half, and 231 yards and 4.2 yards per carry in the final 30 minutes.
And, like Lake alluded to, Davis — a 6-foot, 205-pounder — bounded along the left side for a nine-yard touchdown in UW’s 21-16 comeback win over Arizona.
“It felt good,” Davis said of his first career score. “Right when I got the ball I saw (left tackle Troy Fautanu) — I saw my blockers — ahead of me. I was sure it was going to be a touchdown, because I saw the defense also creeping up pre-snap. So it was just a great look, a great opportunity, and I made the most of it.”
But should his opportunities have come earlier?
That depends who you ask.
But more opportunities should be available against Stanford on Saturday night.
Through seven games, the 3-4 Cardinal rank last in the Pac-12 in rushing defense (202.71 yards allowed per game), opponent yards per carry (4.98) and rushing touchdowns allowed (17). And on the opposite side, UW sits just 11th in rushing offense (107.71 yards per game) and last in yards per carry (3.25).
Something’s got to give inside Stanford Stadium on Saturday.
But it may take longer than Husky fans like.
UW Hall of Famer Calvin Jones dies at 70
Former UW cornerback Calvin Jones — who was inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame in 1983 — has died at 70, his family confirmed.
A San Francisco native, Jones earned varsity letters at UW from 1970 to 1972, and was an Associated Press first-team All-American in his senior season. He finished his college career ranked No. 3 all-time with 12.7 yards per punt return (currently fourth), and his 11 interceptions is tied for seventh in the Husky record books.
Selected in the 15th round of the 1973 NFL Draft, Jones played four seasons for the Denver Broncos, starting 44 games and recording 12 interceptions. He later attended Harvard University’s Divinity School and became pastor of Providence Baptist Church in San Francisco, a position previously held by his father.
Jones is survived by his wife, Eunice; daughters Rena Guidry and Aisha Mitchell; and grandchildren Solomon, Kailynn, Kendall, and Kamille.