Washington running back Salvon Ahmed (26) carries the ball past Boise State defensive back Kekaula Kaniho (28) during the second half of the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus)

Washington running back Salvon Ahmed (26) carries the ball past Boise State defensive back Kekaula Kaniho (28) during the second half of the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus)

Huskies’ Ahmed declares for NFL draft

The junior running back rushed for 1,020 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns this past season.

By Mike Vorel / The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — It certainly sounded like Salvon Ahmed was coming back.

Immediately following Washington’s 38-7 win over Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21, the Huskies’ junior running back recorded a video message that was later posted to social media.

“Hey Husky Nation, we just got the big W!” Ahmed said, arm-in-arm with UW junior cornerback Keith Taylor. “We did that for y’all. Go Dawgs. We’ll see you guys next year for a bigger season. Let’s go!”

Ahmed’s going, all right. The 5-foot-11, 196-pound running back announced on Friday that — like redshirt junior quarterback Jacob Eason and junior tight end Hunter Bryant — he has decided to enter the 2020 NFL draft. Washington will open its season against Michigan on Sept. 5 with a new head coach, offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, starting quarterback, starting running back and starting tight end.

“I want to thank Salvon for all of the hard work he has put in, both on and off the field,” UW coach Jimmy Lake said in a statement. “He was a great example of what Husky Football is all about, and I’m sure that he’ll have plenty of success in the future.”

In the 2019 season, his first as UW’s starter, Ahmed led the Huskies with 1,020 rushing yards on 5.4 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns. After replacing departed UW standout Myles Gaskin, the former Juanita High School standout was named an All-Pac-12 honorable mention for the second time in his career.

Both in the Pac-12 and in the NFL, Ahmed’s most identifiable asset is his game-breaking speed. The local product led the Huskies by running the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.32 seconds at the Husky Combine last spring.

Ahmed’s UW career, like his 40, didn’t last as long as his predecessor’s at the position.

“To Husky Nation, you are the best crowd to play in front of every Saturday,” Ahmed wrote in an Instagram post announcing his exit Friday. “All of you are what make Husky Stadium and this University the greatest setting in college football.

“To my teammates, I love you guys and I truly feel that blood couldn’t make us any closer. The bond we have created throughout these three years has been something I will always cherish. The support and love we have all showed each other has helped me get to where I am today.

“Finally to my coaches, I want to thank you all for helping me develop into the player I have become over these last 3 years. (Running backs coach Keith) Bhonapha I want to give a special thanks to you for pushing me every day the way you did.

“Coach Lake, you have supported me since the beginning of this journey and I couldn’t thank you enough for that. I know you will continue to take this program to the next level.

“Coach Pete (Chris Petersen), I feel honored to have had the opportunity to be coached by you. Not only did you make sure we were all becoming the best football players we could possibly be but also the best men we could be as well.”

Thank yous aside, the question remains: who will replace Ahmed? Barring any unforeseen departures, the Huskies are set to have six scholarship tailbacks on their roster in 2020: seniors Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant, sophomore Richard Newton, redshirt freshman Cameron Davis and true freshmen Sam Adams II and Jay’Veon Sunday.

The 6-0, 210-pound Newton turned in an impressive redshirt freshman campaign, piling up 498 rushing yards and 4.3 yards per carry while scoring 11 touchdowns. McGrew — a 5-7, 186-pound bowling ball — added a team-best 6.2 yards per carry, 342 rushing yards and two 100-yard rushing games.

Davis — a 6-0, 197-pound redshirt freshman — will likely earn a more significant role in 2020, and both Adams (6-1, 194) and Sunday (5-11, 196) are capable of contributing.

Along with Eason, Ahmed and Bryant, UW will be tasked with replacing three starting offensive linemen this offseason. Still, the Huskies may be primed to produce — in Ahmed’s words — “a bigger season” in 2020.

Offensively, at least, they’ll just have to do it with an unproven starring cast.

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