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WSU spring football: Running backs battle for top spot on depth chart in Crimson and Gray game

Washington State's running back situation in unresolved. Who is in the mix for playing time?

Will Teondray Caldwell stay at the top of the depth chart?
Will Teondray Caldwell stay at the top of the depth chart?
William Mancebo

The graduation of Carl Winston has left the top running back spot on the depth chart open, and there are a number of candidates battling it out for playing time this spring. There are three returners that were used in relevant roles last season and a junior college transfer who redshirted last season all vying for a shot.

There is another likely to be in the mix this fall: Arizona transfer Daniel Jenkins. He comes to Washington State as a senior, so there is a strong possibility that Mike Leach and his staff have him in the plan.

Here is a rundown of the scholarship running backs to watch out for at the Crimson and Gray game:

Leon Brooks, RS SR, 5'7, 172

Brooks has been primarily a punt returner in his three seasons as a Coug. Last season, he rushed the ball 12 times for 78 yards and a touchdown while catching seven passes for 22 yards. Brooks is the only returning Cougar with a rushing score last season.

The attributes that make him a good punt returner (he's right around 10 yards per return in his career) do make him dangerous on offense. He has the ability to make players miss and break off chunks of yardage, but doesn't have the durability to get a high number of touches.

He was arrested for DUI in January, so Brooks may have to earn his way back to the staff's good side.

Teondray Caldwell, SO, 5'8, 197

Caldwell was WSU's most effective back when healthy in 2012. He tallied 289 yards on 56 carries for a 4.8 average as a true freshman. Caldwell wasn't all that effective in catching the ball, with 14 catches for 36 yards.

The sophomore is the biggest scholarship running back on the roster after putting on weight in the offseason. Perhaps he did so in preparation of taking on more of a role in short yardage plays.

He struggled on the ground in last Saturday's scrimmage, carrying the ball three times for negative-eight yards. Caldwell also added four catches for 17 yards.

Marcus Mason, JR, 5'9, 187

Mason was buried on the depth chart last year, but did get opportunities late in the season. He was wholly ineffective when rushing the ball, amassing just 15 yards on 12 carries. Mason was most useful catching the ball out of the backfield, where he grabbed 14 balls for 88 yards and a touchdown.

He might be the fastest WSU running back, but he has had trouble getting loose to use that speed against Pac-12 competition. Mason did little in the Cougs' latest scrimmage, carrying three times for negative-four and making one catch for four yards.

Theron West, RS JR, 5'7, 172

West transferred in from LA Harbor College in 2012 and sat out last season as a redshirt. He's another speedy back, and seems to have gained some favor in the spring. He led all running backs with six carries and 26 yards last Saturday and caught one pass for 29 yards.