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WSU building running back depth for 2013

After taking a closer look at the quarterback group, we move on and look at WSU's projected group of running backs.

Gabe Marks possessed face TM
Gabe Marks possessed face TM
William Mancebo

Washington State averaged 29.1 rushing yards per game last season. Some of that is the idiotic fact the NCAA deducts sack yardage from rushing totals, but still, 29.1 yards per game. While the production may not have been great last season, the 2013 Cougars should have some talent in the backfield.

The returners:

As you can see in the roster breakdown, WSU has four scholarship running backs slated to return next season. Of the four, only Teondray Caldwell carried the ball more than 12 times last season. That said, there is a lot of speed and potential in the group.

Teondray Caldwell

Caldwell flashed as a freshman last season and at times showed the potential that could make him an All-Pac-12 type of player. Despite some glaring holes along the offensive line, he managed to average 4.8 yards per carry. Now, he only carried the ball 56 times so it remains to be seen if he can continue that level of production with a larger workload.

One reason he didn't carry the ball more last season was injury. He missed three games and was hobbled in a number of others. Too many times last season, Caldwell would make a play only to have to come off the field shortly after due to some sort of injury.

Barring more injury issues, Caldwell will be in the mix next season and could even be the lead guy.

Leon Brooks

Outside of a 40 yard run, Brooks didn't do much out of the backfield last season. He carried the ball 12 times and was a clear third guy in the rotation. The former walk-on will likely retain his punt return duties and see some action out of the backfield again next season.

Marcus Mason

Maybe the fastest player on the WSU roster, Mason saw some action over the final five games of the season. Unfortunately, he didn't do much with it, gaining 15 yards on 12 rushing attempts. He did, however, catch 14 passes for 88 yards and will likely be in the mix for a bigger role next season.

Theron West

West redshirted last season, so it's still unknown what he can do at this level. West is small -- 5'7, 171 lbs -- but came to WSU with a reputation as a return man. He'll likely enter spring football as the No. 4 running back on the depth chart, but it's not as if the three above him have done much more to prove themselves.

The newcomers:

The WSU backfield will be crowded next season as WSU is slated to bring in four new running backs. Whether or not everyone sticks at running back remains to be seen, but at worst the offensive staff shouldn't have a shortage of capable players.

Gerard Wicks

If his measurables are correct -- 5'10, 195 lbs -- Wicks is bigger than any of the current running backs. He's scheduled to visit Fresno State this weekend, so there is the possibility he doesn't end up with WSU come signing day, but if he does he could bring a power running ability WSU is currently missing.

Kyle's take: Wicks is a damned bowling ball at 5'10 and 195 pounds. I wouldn't be surprised if he puts on more weight before he takes a snap, either. Has a little Carl Winston in him and doesn't really shy away from contact. Of the three running backs coming in, I think he's the most likely to stay at running back. He can catch the ball, but he's a north and south runner, the other two guys are more east and west. He's the guy getting you the yard on 3rd-and-1.

Olito Thompson

Thompson is even bigger than Wicks and at 5'10 and 210 pounds will look like an offensive lineman compared the other running backs. He put up some absurd rushing totals in high school including nearly 3,500 yards as a junior. Based on his High School stats alone, Thompson is obviously going to win a Heisman Trophy one day. Also, I wrote this before reading Kyle's take and we made the same jokes. You read mine first though, so I win.

Kyle's take: Oh man, I love Thompson. It's funny that I'd say the guy who is 195 is the bowling ball 'back and not the guy who is 210, but here we are. I think Thompson is the best 'back out of the three, to be honest. He's the all around running back that doesn't need to come off the field on third down. He's very smart, reads his blockers well, and shows a ton of patience for a High Schooler. He also put up ridiculous insane video game numbers in High School, and we all know that if there's anything that carries weight on CougCenter, it's High School stats.

Jamal Morrow

At 5'8 and 180 pounds, Morrow fits the mold of the current running backs. He didn't put up numbers in Thompson's range but still averaged close to 10 yards per carry this past season. He was the third of the three to commit so either the staff is planning to run a lot more, or they are bringing Morrow in as an athlete. Defensive back and inside receiver are both possibilities in addition to running back.

Kyle's take: Morrow is the guy I think winds up playing receiver. He can return kicks for you, and he's pretty shifty. I could envision him backing up Galvin at the H position, because they both have similar skill sets (Galvin is much faster, though). I was really surprised to see a third running back added, so I think this is a case where you take a really good athlete and find a spot for him.

Daniel Jenkins

Jenkins is transferring from Arizona and will have one season to play at WSU. That fact alone tells me he is going to play and likely play a lot next season. With four running backs on the current roster and three more committed why would the coaching staff bring in another guy who can only play one year if they weren't going to play him?

Jenkins has said the coaches plan for him to be the feature back, so either the coaches lied to him in the recruiting process or he's going to get every opportunity to take over as the lead 'back.

The targets:

With eight running backs already slated to be in the mix next season, I would be shocked if WSU picked up any more for the 2013 recruiting class. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if WSU didn't take any running backs in the 2014 recruiting class. At this point, unless it's an elite guy, WSU is likely done.

Kyle's take: I honestly didn't think they'd bring in more than one running back, and they're bringing in three. So ... yeah. I'd be super surprised if we added anyone else at running back. Unless it's a guy they plan on moving to wide receiver or defensive back, we're all done at this spot. But if I had to throw one name out to keep an eye on, it'd be Dre Milton from Lakes High School in Lakewood. He's 5'10, 225, and would be coming as a MLB or TJ Duckett clone. But really, I'd be shocked if they added anyone else.

2013 outlook:

Depth should not be an issue, but the question is whether it's quantity or is there some quality? I'm a very big fan of Caldwell and think he's going to have a great career at WSU. Is he ready to carry the load next season? That I'm not sure and with his injury history an insurance plan is a must.

That, to me, is the main reason the Cougars are bringing in Jenkins. Brooks and Mason haven't shown enough that they could carry the load if Caldwell wen't down and ideally you redshirt all three freshman. Jenkins had some success at Arizona and is playing in his final season so motivation shouldn't be an issue.

If I had to guess right now, I'd say Caldwell and Jenkins get close to an equal number of carries next season with Brooks and Mason sprinkled in. Wicks and Thompson redshirt while Morrow moves to defensive back. Depending on the health of Caldwell and the ability of Jenkins, I think this is a unit which could make major strides next season.