This continues our series of semi-informed WSU football depth chart speculation in which we take a stab at what each position will look like when the Cougars kick off against Idaho State on Sept. 3. You'll note, at times, that it will look a little different than the post-spring practice depth chart -- we're going to incorporate incoming freshmen and also try to guess what's going to play out in August during training camp. Previous: QBs, DBs.
You know how long it's been since WSU has had a running back perform effectively? The 2007 season was the last time the Cougars had a running back -- Dwight Tardy -- meet even the incredibly modest expectations of averaging more than 10 carries and 4.0 yards. The last time a WSU running back truly was a star? Gotta go back to Jerome Harrison in 2005.
Of course, it's impossible to completely separate the performance of the running backs from the performance of the offensive line, and we all know how awful the offensive line has been the last three years. But still -- even with a great offensive line, I don't think anyone was going to mistake Tardy or James Montgomery for The Ghost or Michael Black. (Although, they probably could have passed for Jonathan Smith or Jermaine Green with a serviceable line.)
Which leaves the question: Just what can we expect from these guys this year? The line should be better, but will that be enough to create a passable running game?
Logwone Mitz will lead the way in his senior year, but he's big and bruising and hardly a dynamic feature back. And Paul Wulff has alluded to mental lapses that have cost Mitz playing time over the past two years. Redshirt freshman Rickey Galvin is dynamic, but he's small in stature and coming off a broken wrist sustained on his first carry last year.
Bottom line? There will be a lot of carries to go around to a number of guys. Here's our take on the how the depth chart will look.
|Logwone Mitz, Sr.*||Rickey Galvin, Fr.*||Carl Winston, Jr.||Arthur Burns, So.*||Leon Brooks, So.*|
Level of certainty: Medium-high. Mitz and Galvin will lead the way, forming a sort of thunder and lightning combination in the WSU backfield. The reality is that they're really starter 1A and 1B, and they're more talented than anyone else on the roster. We only got a brief look at Galvin last year, but he is explosive -- there's a reason why he was slated to get carries as a true freshman. Barring injury, there's very little chance either of those two are overtaken by anyone else on the roster during training camp in August.
Risk of volatility: Medium. Had Bishop Sankey actually signed on the dotted line, he'd be the wild card here and the potential for upheaval in this depth chart as the season went on would be quite high. Alas, he did not, and the top five spots are taken by guys who were on the roster a year ago. That doesn't mean, though, that there's no room for a surprise in here -- something you'd expect to be the case for a unit that has struggled with productivity. Coaches were high on Winston as a freshman, but he wasn't able to break through last year. There's a chance he could wedge his way in here, especially if Mitz struggles with pass protection again. And don't sleep on Burns, whose athleticism is tantalizing. He was moved back to running back last year after a failed experiment at linebacker.
Biggest question: Could Mitz actually emerge as a workhorse? While Mitz, at 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, doesn't look like your typical feature back, he's surprisingly shifty and does possess more speed than some think -- see Exhibit A. As a big back, Mitz is never going to create something out of nothing; he needs at least a small push and a crease to get those legs churning downhill. If the offensive line is marginally improved, it's possible Mitz takes control of the job to the tune of 15-18 carries a game.