A Quick Look at the UW Running Backs, Who Go Seven Deep

Cam Davis is getting a chance to show what he can do while Richard Newton is trying to round into shape.
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Sophomore Cam Davis draws the first carries at spring practice these days, junior Richard Newton the most questions surrounding his progress and redshirt freshman Jay'Veon Sunday plenty of defensive catcalls.

Such is the state of the University of Washington running-backs corps, which runs at least seven deep in scholarship players and offers a little of everything as far as ball carriers go.

Davis, who rotated in as the third and fourth back during last season's abbreviated season, is getting his opportunity this month to show what he can do with greater responsibility. He's been first up with the ones more times than he hasn't.

The 6-foot, 205-pounder from Rancho Cucamonga, California, previously lagged behind the others because he was banged up at times and probably wasn't totally comfortable with knowing what to do at all times. He's a veteran now.

"There's a guy who's a difference-maker with the ball in his hands," said Keith Bhonapha, Husky running-backs coach. "He has the ability to change gears."

Newton remains the most impressive physical specimen of all of these UW running backs, with his only spring drawback missing a couple of early practices because of false positive COVID-19 tests, which wasn't his fault.

Yet on Monday, he was riding an exercise bike at times during the morning session, which means the 6-foot, 215-pounder from Lancaster, California, is still working himself into shape or trying to get totally healthy. 

Newton is the guy who made the Doak Walker Award watch list last season as supposedly one of the nation's top backs and the same person who scored 11 touchdowns in 2019, but he still hasn't started a game. He appears to be making progress.

"He looks a little bit faster to me," Bhonapha said. "I think he has a little more confidence in his pass protection, too."

Taking their regular turns with the ball are Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant, a pair of seniors and two-game starters last season who have returned for a sixth year in the program. The 5-foot-7, 180-pound McGrew is the only one who has a 100-yard rushing game, collecting two in 2019.  

Bhonapha wants these older guys to provide leadership for the others and put their specialized talents to good use on game day.

Of the next group coming in, the 6-foot, 210-pound Sunday has livened up the eight spring practices held so far by demonstrating an overt friskiness, which is another way of saying he's a bit of a showboat. 

The running back from Waco, Texas, has offered some high-stepping moves and maybe too much energy on occasion, much like a wild stallion that hasn't been broken in yet. A lot of UW defensive players have noted this and let him know it, with junior cornerback Trent McDuffie knocking the younger player down in a non-contact drill.

The coaches have no problem with his energy and bubbly personality. They're glad to see it.  

"The biggest step I've seen Jay'Veon take is not even about football," Bhonapha said. "It's him opening up more as a person."

Behind Sunday is another Texan, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound true freshman Caleb Berry from the little town of Lufkin. Berry arrived after suffering a broken leg this past fall but appears to be fairly sound now. He seems to be drawing more and more carries each practice.

Behind everyone at this point is the much touted Sam Adams, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound redshirt freshman from Kirkland, Washington, whose progress has been slower than all of the others, for whatever reason. He's moved sort of tentative in cone drills and doesn't pull a lot of scrimmage carries yet.

On Monday, Adams was even seen having a lengthy discussion with All-American tight-end candidate Cade Otton in the middle of practice, presumably about being mired deep on the depth chart and receiving upperclassmen encouragement to hang in there. 

Bhonapha didn't sound disappointed at all with any of his backs, including Adams. This is all part of the process.

"It's really about cycling them through the whole group and getting everybody their technique and fundamentals down," the coach said. "For the young guys, it's just trying to keep them from drowning, to keep them swimming and trying to get them to the next step."

Follow Dan Raley of Husky Maven on Twitter: @DanRaley1 and @HuskyMaven

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