2010 WSU FOOTBALL PREVIEWS: Running Backs

Part two in an eight-part series previewing the WSU football 2010 offensive and defensive units.

MONDAY: Linebackers

Overview

The running back position may hold some of the most interesting stories coming out of Washington State's fall camp.

First, we cannot ignore the remarkable comeback of James Montgomery. He loses part of his leg to a freak injury, then also has to undergo microfracture  arthriscopic knee surgery. The fact that he is even able to participate in practice is an accomplishment and a testament to modern medicine. Any production the Cougs get out of Montgomery this season is gravy. The good news is, that is a very real possibility. Here is a quote from Sir Vincent Grippi from his first practice report:

 And James Montgomery was cutting and moving with the same panache as last season.

Kudos to Vince for usage of the word "panache."

Now, before you go and get all excited and pencil Montgomery in for 25 carries a game, realize he isn't all the way back. Wulff has been holding him out of some practices, especially on two-a-days, and James has admitted that there is still some pain in his knee when he makes really hard cuts. Others will have to step up as WSU will most likely use the "by committee" approach.

Luckily, Washington State finds themselves with some pretty real depth here. Another guy coming off major surgery, Chantz Staden, by all accounts was outstanding in spring camp. He is a guy with some burst and he led the team in all-purpose yards in 2008. (He returned kicks, so he had A LOT of opportunities). Marcus Richmond and Logwone Mitz are a couple of experienced power backs who are likely to get some carries in short yardage situations. Carl Winston may be another feature back in the making and has taken reps with the first team. Finally, true freshman Rickey Galvin has done nothing but impress in fall camp. Each day, it seems he has made yet another big play. Do not be surprised if he gains more and more of a presence on gameday as the fall progresses.

Running back should not be a question mark for the Cougs this year. They have some experienced depth and a solid mixture of bruisers, burners and balanced guys.

Projected Depth Chart For Sept. 4

Rather than listing the running backs in a sort of 1-6 depth chart, we've decided to group them together in categories. This fits more along the lines of the approach that is expected from the coaching staff. (H/T to Brian for the idea).

Feature Back Speed Back Power Back
James Montgomery Chantz Staden Logwone Mitz
Carl Winston Rickey Galvin Marcus Richmond

Key Player

I'd love to be a super genius and predict one of the other backs to have a breakout season here, but really the most important player is James Montgomery. If he can come back and be his old self, carrying the ball 20 times a game on the way, he can really give this offense some stability. That stability can make game planning easier on the coaches and give our young quarterback a little more confidence.

James Montgomery has the experience and size to do that; it really comes down to whether or not that knee holds up.

Biggest Question Mark

Last season, yards per carry numbers were sad across the board, no matter who had the ball in their hands. It does not take a football expert to figure out the common thread there: the offensive line.

The running backs can and will make plays. The question is how many opportunities will the offensive line give them to do so?

Best Case Scenario

James Montgomery is able to carry the ball 15-20 times a game and put up a YPC number around 4.5. Carl Winston does the same in spelling Montgomery. Chantz Staden and Rickey Galvin provide plenty of big runs. Logwone Mitz and Marcus Richmond are solid in short yardage, moving the chains and converting red zone opportunities.

The improved running game opens up the passing game for Jeff Tuel, who finishes in the top half of a QB-loaded conference in passing efficiency.

Worst Case Scenario

The offensive line is still so bad it does not matter who is in the backfield.

Chantz Staden and James Montgomery are not fully recovered and are essentially useless to Paul Wulff. Rickey Galvin provides none of the exciting plays we've heard about in practice, as Pac-10 defenses make him look a step slower. Carl Winston is not effective as an every-down back. Logwone Mitz catches another case of fumbilitis and wastes scoring opportunities.

Opposing defenses are able to focus on the pass rush, leaving our quarterbacks battered and bruised for yet another year.

Likely Scenario

Running back by committee is the name of the game. Montgomery is effective, but really can not sustain 20 carries a game. Chantz Staden provides some excitement when given big holes. Having added some bulk, Carl Winston is much more able to handle carries on an every-down basis. Logwone Mitz and Marcus Richmond are used sparingly in short yardage, sometimes as fullbacks. Rickey Galvin provides a play or two that ensure Coug fans will remember his name a la Johnny Forzani last season (don't worry, he won't declare for the Canadian draft), but still is too light to handle the rigors of double-digit carries in the Pac-10.

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