SEATTLE — Washington coach Chris Petersen said he “feels good” about the team’s running back options for 2018 should junior Myles Gaskin declare for the NFL Draft.
The future of Gaskin, a Lynnwood native, is a pressing concern considering the Huskies are expected to challenge for the College Football Playoff next season.
“We’re always looking at this big picture,” Petersen said Wednesday. “You always think you’re good until a few things happen and depth is never what you wanted. It’s great at one position and all of a sudden, injury bug hits and not what you wanted. You adjust and go.
“We’re always playing the puzzle. What if this happens? Who could move here? Who can do this? I think we feel good about where we are.”
UW signed all 18 of its players in the first day of the new early window. The Huskies have through Friday to sign more players. From there, Petersen and his staff could use January to add a few more pieces prior to National Signing Day in February.
Richard Newton, a three-star prospect, is the only running back the Huskies signed.
Petersen said the 6-foot-1 and 185-pound Newton is “a good hard-nosed football player” before detailing other possibilities.
UW returns rising star freshman Salvon Ahmed. The Huskies could pair the elusive and speedy Ahmed with Newton, who has power plus quickness.
In all, the Huskies will have six running backs next season assuming Gaskin leaves.
“Then you have a guy like Chico (McClatcher) and Trey Lowe who are receivers,” Petersen said. “But those guys are so versatile, they can do things there.”
The Huskies will have more than a dozen scholarship or non-scholarship receiver on next year’s roster. It’s a group that includes a number of returning players coupled with promising talents like four-star signees Austin Osborne and Marquis Spiker.
UW will have the kind of depth at receiver that could allow Petersen to experiment with Lowe and McClatcher at running back, if needed.
McClatcher, the News Tribune’s All-Area Player of the Year in 2014, ran for 2,283 yards and 31 touchdowns during his senior season at Federal Way.
Lowe, a four-star prospect from Portland Jesuit, was named the Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year after running for more than 1,700 yards in 2017.
“Trey Lowe, I mean, he’s very, very similar with some things he did in high school. Similar to Chico,” Petersen said. “He’s a running back who can catch the heck out of the ball.”
Even though UW has plenty of options, the Huskies would surely welcome the idea of having Gaskin for another season.
Gaskin stands at 1,282 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns but his role within the offense grew later in the year.
Injuries and other factories made it harder for UW to move the ball through the air. Those struggles led to Gaskin rushing for more than 120 yards in four of the Huskies’ final five games.
He ran for 11 touchdowns in that span and sparked questions of a departure after UW’s 41-14 win over Washington State in The Apple Cup. Gaskin torched WSU’s defense for 192 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Despite his good season, Gaskin would be entering a draft class with an abundance of running backs.
WalterFootball.com considers Gaskin to be the 17th best running back draft-eligible running back. Penn State star Saquon Barkley is first while Stanford’s Bryce Love is second. USC’s Ronald Jones is 10th while Oregon’s Royce Freeman is 11th.
Petersen said he has a “feel” for what could happen in case Gaskin or other third-year players choose to leave for the NFL.
He declined to provide further detail and chose to concentrate on UW’s signing class plus the team’s PlayStation Fiesta Bowl showdown against Penn State.
“I feel good with where we are in that whole thing,” Petersen said. “I feel good with where are in that whole thing. Not about feeling good for Washington but what’s the best thing for these kids. I always think about that in that next level situation.”