Washington actually had a thousand yard running back for the first time in over a decade in 2007. Louis Rankin had a decent year despite the fact that he still danced around too much at times. Louis is gone now, and the Huskies will replace him with young group of largely untested young tailbacks.
Brandon Johnson seems to be the heir apparent after winning the back up job as a true frosh in 2007. Brandon even came in and rushed for over 100 yards in the second half against California. Johnson isn't as fast, and shifty as Rankin, but he is a better inside runner with good speed. It was tough to get a good read on Johnson this Spring because he was dinged up the last week of practice, and during the Spring game.
Lining up behind him are RS Willie Griffin, and RS Brandon Yakaboski. Griffin is a good looking inside runner who reminds many of Willie Hurst. Yakaboski is a kid who loves contact, but hasn't stayed real healthy since he arrived at UW. Yak has good hands, and the coaches like the way he catches the ball out of the backfield.
Sophomore Curtis Shaw, and Fr Chris Polk are listed as slotbacks, but you could see both of these kids lining up at TB, SB, and WR. Polk had extended time in the Spring game at TB. Both of these kids are multi talented utility players that can be inserted where needed, if Johnson gets dinged they are a great insurance policy at TB.
The Huskies are bringing in 3-4 kids in the freshman class who could possibly see some time this year if they impress this summer. Demetrius Bronson, David Freeman, Johri Fogerson, and Terrance Dailey will all start off at TB. Dailey could be a future FB, and Fogerson's future could be on defense. Freeman has a lot of moves, and speed and was coached by Husky great Charles Mincy. I could see him returning kicks in the future.
TB Johnson So
TB Griffin RS
TB Yakaboski RS
TB Dailey Fr
TB Bronson Fr
TB Freeman Fr
TB Fogerson Fr
SB Polk Fr
SB Shaw So
The Huskies are blessed with three excellent Fullbacks who I would love to see get the ball more in 2008. Jr Paul Homer is a throwback blood, and guts type of player that would fit in with any Husky team in any era. He has great size, adequate speed, and is a good blocker. Sr Kravitz is the backup, but has been troubled by injuries the last couple of years. he has good hands out of the backfield and is starter 1-B. So Austin Sylvester is in the same mold as the previous two and is the FB in waiting after starting out at MLB.
Homer is efficient in short yardage situations, he is rarely knocked backwards and always seems to pick up needed yardage.
I would love to see Lappano utilize these guys more as receivers out of the backfield. With an extremely young group of receivers coming in the FB's could help Locker quite a bit by becoming a viable receiving option in 2008.
Is Brandon Johnson a better TB than Louis Rankin?
That is what it all comes down to for UW since most of the same cast of characters return this year to clear the way for Washington running backs.
Brandon Johnson has a solid hold on the position going into the Fall, but he isn't exactly coming off a stellar Spring because of injury. If Johnson is going to be the go to guy he is going to have to prove his durability during the first three brutal games of the season.
Willie Griffin was the star of the Spring game, but if Johnson falters look for the Huskies to turn to Fr Chris Polk who may be the most exciting player to wear a UW uniform since Napoleon Kauffman. Polk has been compared favorably to former USC star Reggie Bush, and UW was able to take the highly coveted player away from USC last Winter.
I think the coaches would rather plug Polk in as a SB, WR, and occasional TB till he gains some muscle to withstand the pounding you can take carrying the ball 30 times per game. That is the advantage Johnson has, good size, adequate speed, and he rarely fumbles. What Polk brings to the game is what Johnson lacks, and that is break away speed, and moves which is something Rankin brought to the table last season.
Fullback is very solid with Homer, Kravitz, and Sylvester. The Huskies have rebuilt the position with some nice depth and are contemplating adding the change up of Terrance Dailey to the position this Fall. At first glance Dailey seems to be too small to be a FB, but the coaches feel he will bulk up enough, and still retain speed to become a hybrid weapon back there.
Will there be a 1000 yard RB at Washington in 2008?
The chance is there because most of the UW offensive line is returning, and they have another year of experience under Denbrock which means they should be improved. Rankin picked up a lot of yards on big plays last season, the knock on him was he wasn't a pounder who picked up the third and two you needed to keep a drive alive at the end of the game. Perhaps that attribute will be more important in the backfield in 2008 if Johnson can provide it. Controlling drives, and keeping the heat off of Jake Locker when everyone expects him to run it will be Johnson's main goal in 2008.
Always look for UW to take at least a couple of RB's each year. Like shortstops in baseball these kids are usually the best athletes on their HS teams and can be moved around the roster to plug holes, and add speed.
Freeman, Dailey, Bronson, and Fogerson are the newcomers this year, and all four of these kids could end up being moved around with Freeman being the most likely to stick at TB.
Fogerson to me looks like he has the makeup of a dominating Safety. The kid has the ability to knock the snot out of people, and has the necessary nasty you like to see on that side of the ball.
Bronson was the elite back in state last season, and he will get his first shot at TB, but he is another kid that could move to defense. His brother was a LB at Penn State.
As I said earlier Dailey may end up at FB which leaves David Freeman. I loved the film I saw on Freeman and I think the kid has a chance to contribute early returning kicks if needed.
The consensus though is all four will RS this season if they remain at RB, Fogerson has the ability to play early if he moves to Safety, but don't discount this kid as a RB, he was dominating in the state championship game.