Day 2 of our Spring Place Breakdowns, and we flip our consideration to the working backs room. After final off season’s roster flip, Coach Lee Marks seems to construct on final 12 months’s quietly spectacular season with one other inflow of Portal/HS expertise and a full offseason to get final 12 months’s younger portal class in control.
2022 Season Refresher
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Trying again, the working backs did rather a lot higher final season than it’d’ve appeared within the second. Heading into the season, it was reported that Taulapapa had the within monitor for the RB1 spot on account of his expertise and well-rounded ability set, however everybody assumed that Cam Davis, or one of many extra highly-touted RBs, would ultimately take over primarily based on their uncooked expertise. Nonetheless, as soon as video games acquired going and neither Taulapapa nor Davis actually separated themselves, the main focus shifted to the our record-setting passing offense, and all of us failed to appreciate simply how productive the working backs ended up being by the top of the season. Taulapapa completed lower than 40 yards behind Rome Odunze for the crew lead in scrimmage yards, and Davis completed within the high 5 on the crew in scrimmage yards as properly.
Whereas the offense did skew in the direction of Penix & our elite WR corps, we nonetheless maintained some semblance of stability, and we additionally unfold the ball out fairly constantly. Hardly ever did any of our backs obtain greater than 15 touches in a recreation, and we not often noticed spotlight runs that drew consideration to the backfield. As an alternative, we acquired effectivity, stable cross safety, few turnovers/errors, and an ideal complement to the passing recreation. Its additionally value noting that the run recreation appeared to search out its groove because the season progressed and as soon as defenses began to key in on the passing assault. 4 of Taulapapa’s 5 greatest yards per carry performances have been within the final 4 video games of the season, together with 3 of his 4 100+ yard performances. If subsequent season’s lead again can decide up the place he left off, we’ll be in good palms.
Present Roster & Notable Arrivals/Departures
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Departures: Wayne Taulapapa (Exhausted Eligibility), Jay’Veon Sunday (Portal)
Turning our consideration to this Spring and the 2023 season, we first need to take inventory of our RB steady. As a grad switch, Taulapapa is now coaching for an NFL alternative after one profitable 12 months as our high RB. For my part, particularly with hindsight, Taulapapa was an ideal Portal decide up within the employees’s first off season. He was an skilled switch who was able to producing with or with out the ball in his palms. He instantly established himself as the very best cross protector within the RB room, and that allowed the employees to construct the very best model of the offense with the roster that they inherited. He was additionally a switch whose one-year of remaining eligibility allowed them to take a threat on a decrease rated switch whereas nonetheless planning for long-term upgrades to the expertise on the place.
RS freshman Jay’Veon Sunday additionally departs from Montlake and entered the portal after the season. Sunday was introduced in beneath the Jimmy Lake employees, and it was long-speculated whether or not his bodily, downhill working type and one-dimensional ability set was a very good match for our new offense. His profession on Montlake by no means gained traction, however we want him the very best at Abilene Christian.
For each departing RBs, their departures have been to be anticipated and shouldn’t have long-term impacts to Coach Marks’ plans.
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Returning: Cam Davis, Richard Newton, Sam Adams II, Will Nixon, Aaron Dumas
The return of Cam Davis, Richard Newton, and Sam Adams II was a little bit of a shock to most followers, nevertheless it was a welcomed one. After a number of seasons of motion as rotational gamers, it was assumed that at the least one in all Davis/Newton would look elsewhere for higher alternative. Davis had already been handed over for the RB1 spot by a switch as soon as (Taulapapa), and there was little doubt that we have been going to search out one other Portal RB this offseason. For Newton, he had already constructed a resume that was corresponding to Taulapapa’s when he left UVA, and after a couple of vital accidents and a number of staffing modifications, most followers would’ve been supportive of him if he determined to chase his goals elsewhere. Adams’ case was a little bit completely different. He had arrived to campus as a proficient native recruit who it appeared could be an ideal match for the offense, however after three seasons of sparse play, a little bit frustration can be warranted.
Regardless, all three are again they usually have the makings of a harmful working again committee. Davis brings the very best mixture of expertise and multi-faceted ability set of the three. He’s already earned the employees’s belief, and he’s a identified commodity as an above common RB2 at worst. Newton equally brings expertise to the desk and could be essentially the most harmful pure rusher of the returning backs. His violent slasher speeding type brings a special dynamic to the offense, however he hasn’t earned many reps with the present employees. For the second or third offseason now, his path to enjoying time will probably hinge on his potential to remain wholesome and develop into a dependable contributor within the passing recreation (blocking and/or receiving).
After the seasoned vets, its a harder learn on the scenario. As talked about earlier than, Adams appears to be an ideal match for Grubb’s offense. He confirmed numerous potential as a receiving menace out of the backfield when he was popping out of HS, and he was a dynamic weapon with the ball in his palms. He has the dimensions and athleticism that each crew is on the lookout for, and he was beginning to earn snaps at occasions this previous season. Nonetheless, with little current tape to base a projection off of, its powerful to determine what precisely a profitable off season of improvement would seem like for Adams. Nixon is in an analogous place. Nixon was one other one in all final 12 months’s switch backs who was touted as a receiving RB, however after getting a couple of snaps early within the season, Nixon didn’t make a lot noise down the stretch. He wasn’t fairly as extremely rated popping out of HS as Adams, however they’ve acquired an analogous quantity of expertise within the offense and sure have comparable standings throughout the room.
Rounding out the returnees is Aaron Dumas. Views on Dumas are everywhere in the map. After transferring from New Mexico final Spring and dominating the snap counts by means of all of Spring Practices, Dumas did not register any snaps through the season. The rash of accidents final Spring arrange him up as a purple herring, and I’m not anticipating him to offer way more than depth this coming 12 months. Whereas he posted a stable freshman season at New Mexico, his pure expertise may not be as much as par for a program with CFP aspirations, and he lacks a particular ability that may in any other case separate him from the remainder of the pack.
Photograph by Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire through Getty Photographs
Arrivals: Dillon Johnson (Mississippi State), Daniyel Ngata (ASU), Tybo Rogers (HS)
Talking of distinctive ability units, Dillon Johnson, previously of Mississippi State, headlines an incoming RB class that’s large on defining traits. Johnson was probably the #1 switch RB goal for UW this offseason, and for good cause. With virtually 150 profession receptions and over 2000 profession scrimmage yards within the SEC, Johnson is the kind of multi-faceted expertise that may preserve defenses off stability throughout the framework of our current offense. Johnson isn’t essentially the most dynamic pure rusher, and he jogs my memory numerous Taulapapa with the ball in his palms. He has good imaginative and prescient that can lead him to house, and his mixture of quickness and speak to stability earns him the hidden yards in each play. I don’t anticipate him to be a 1200 yard rusher at UW, however 800 yards speeding & 400 yards passing is properly inside attain.
Tybo Rogers has an analogous but fully completely different ability set than Johnson, however there’s a cause why he was our high RB goal out of HS. The place as Johnson’s receiving abilities have been primarily featured out of the backfield in Mike Leach’s Air Raid Offense, Rogers’ receiving abilities have been honed out large as properly. Enjoying each RB & WR, Rogers led his crew in each speeding & receiving till he acquired damage throughout his senior 12 months. Enjoying as a vertical menace at WR is a totally completely different ability set than working swing routes out of the backfield, and having a this caliber of athlete (he’s acquired a special gear) with an RB degree of playmaking potential and WR receiving potential is uncommon. Grubb’s offense is exclusive in how ceaselessly it locations place gamers in distinctive alignments to attract advantageous mismatches. One in every of Grubb’s favorites is an empty set with RBs & TEs on the perimeter to get our high WRs open out of the slot. This normally implies that the RBs are simply decoys, however think about if we had a legit receiving menace at RB who may combine it up with CBs out large. Relying on how shortly he can bounce again from his HS damage, Rogers may make a push for early rotational enjoying time.
Lastly, now we have Danyiel Ngata from ASU. After lacking on him out of HS, Ngata comes full circle to play for the Huskies on Montlake the place his older brother Ariel began his profession. The previous high 150 recruit has the expertise and pedigree to be a dynamic expertise at UW, however he hasn’t been capable of finding his footing simply but in school. He’s been a rotational again for the Solar Devils for the final three seasons, and he’s proven flashes of the dynamic rusher he was in HS, however he by no means actually took the proverbial subsequent step in Tempe. Like virtually all the RBs Marks has introduced in since arriving, Ngata has expertise as each a receiver out of the backfield and out of different alignments, however what’s completely different about Ngata is his pure speeding potential. When he’s featured in a fast hitting or large zone speeding assault the place he could make one minimize and go, he can gash a protection. He will get further yards extra together with his quickness and agility than his potential to interrupt tackles, but when he can get into house, he’s the kind of again that may get the spotlight yards. I’m unsure the place he suits into the pecking order with so many seasoned vets on the roster, but when he suits in as RB2 or RB3, then you’ll know now we have a proficient group.
Issues to Look Out For
As we begin to get observe studies this Spring, I’d be on the look out for any point out of cross safety out of this group. Not like final 12 months, we don’t have a transparent learn on who the very best cross protector is on this group. Taulapapa wouldn’t have been the apparent decide there final season if it weren’t for the famous deficiencies of the competitors. I wouldn’t have picked it as the important thing issue within the competitors final 12 months, nevertheless it was essential sufficient that it saved extra dynamic abilities on the sidelines, so its clearly an essential consideration.
One thing else to look out for is how Grubb decides to capitalize on the expertise within the room. We’ve clearly upgraded the receiving expertise within the RB room, however the RBs solely accounted for 55 receptions final 12 months our high 3 WRs accounted for almost 4 occasions as many. If we preserve an analogous goal share, run/cross cut up, and nobody separates themselves as a cross protector, then the higher pure runners like Newton and Ngata may need an edge within the competitors. In fact, it additionally is determined by who wins the iOL competitors. An offensive line with Nate Kalepo and Julius Buelow on the guard spots isn’t more likely to be working a ton of out of doors zone or pin & pull ideas, so preserve that behind your thoughts.
What are you on the lookout for/ahead to out of the RB room? Let me know within the feedback under.