Mike Leach’s Washington State Cougars are known for throwing the ball all over the field. With senior quarterback Luke Falk at the helm, the Cougars should have another successful season this year. But most non-Cougars fans are unaware that Wazzu has a staple of running backs that contributed to last season’s successes. The Cougars return their top four running backs from last season. Falk may break some Pac-12 and NCAA records in 2017, but the Cougars will need their running backs to keep improving if they want to contend for a Pac-12 championship.
Washington State Cougars Running Backs
1. James Williams – Redshirt Sophomore
James Williams has the most upside of any of the Cougars running backs. He combines the skills of seniors Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks into one player. Williams is a physical running back that can run the ball between the tackles. He showed as a freshman that he can catch the ball out of the backfield, which is critical in a Mike Leach offense. Leach likes playing multiple running backs, so Williams likely won’t play on all three downs. But he has the best chance of taking over the starting position and getting more opportunities than his teammates. He rushed for 584 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman. He’ll easily surpass those numbers if he stays healthy.
2. Jamal Morrow – Redshirt Senior
Jamal Morrow is considered the Cougars’ undersized receiving running back, but he’s so much more than a change of pace back. At 5’9, Morrow packs a bigger punch than most other running backs his size. He’ll never be a between the tackles bruiser, but he has rushed for more than six yards per carry each of the last two seasons. He ran for 575 yards and five touchdowns and had 488 receiving yards and another five touchdowns last season. He’ll likely be the Cougars’ third down back because of his receiving abilities.
3. Gerard Wicks – Redshirt Senior
Gerard Wicks is the bruiser of the bunch. He’s a physical runner that can take over games. When the Cougars want to wear down a defense, they hand the ball to Wicks and force opponents to tackle him. He didn’t rush for as many yards last year as he did during his sophomore year, but he found the end zone eleven times on the ground. He has better hands than most bruising running backs, which will give Leach the confidence to play him. Wicks will be the Cougars’ goal line running back again this season.
4. Keith Harrington – Redshirt Junior
Keith Harrington hardly saw the field in 2016. He had six rushing yards and twenty receiving yards. Harrington played so sparingly that there were rumors that he’d change positions. He was a receiving threat in 2015, so some speculated that he might be a better wide receiver than running back. Although he hasn’t gotten many opportunities, he proved that he’s a capable runner as a freshman when he rushed for 6.4 yards per carry. He’ll have a hard time cracking the depth chart this season, but he’ll be the replacement if any other running back suffers an injury. He’s more likely to have success in 2018 after Morrow and Wicks graduate as the backup to Williams.