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Best Gift Ever: UW Running Backs in 2020

Huskies have abundance of rushers as they enter the Jimmy Lake era

When Jimmy Lake opens his Christmas presents today, the new Washington football coach might offer this gentle reminder.

"I don't need anymore running backs."

In fact, Lake might want to return one or two of the rushers he just unwrapped and get himself another quarterback.

Eight months before sending the Huskies into their season opener and his head-coaching debut against Michigan, Lake is flush with ball carriers. A speed guy. A battering ram. An elusive little darter. A Davis, always a great RB name. Touted recruits from the Seattle area and Texas. 

"We've got a lot of guys in this room who can go out and make plays," starter Salvon Ahmed said before entering the Apple Cup.

That would be an understatement. While Chris Petersen left the program in good shape, he outdid himself with the running backs.

Ahmed, a 5-foot-11, 196-pounder, returns for his senior year as a 1,020-yard, 11-touchdown rusher who turned in four 100-yard outings -- and he might have difficulty retaining his starting job.

He's a flat-out speedster who broke an 89-yard scoring run against USC and snapped off a 60-yard TD burst against Oregon State, and he was looking over his shoulder the whole way.

Not at pursuing tacklers. At Richard Newton.

Newton, shown in the accompanying photo in the Las Vegas Bowl, enters his sophomore season as an 11-TD scorer and 498-yard rusher. He piled up these numbers while missing three games because of a leg injury. 

And not starting a game.

Word of caution to Ahmed: the rotation might change some in 2020. The Kirkland, Washington product could be coming off the bench to do what he does best. That's no reflection on his skills. It's the emerging presence of the 6-foot, 210-pound Newton.

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Often lining up in the Wildcat formation, Newton is as bruising when barreling through the line as Ahmed is lightning fast while going around the corner. The Californian sets a punishing example for teammates to follow. 

"He's a downhill, physical runner," said Bush Hamdan, recently dismissed UW offensive coordinator, of Newton. "That's a mindset he brings and the great ones use that to get the other guys around them to feel different."

Newton also demonstrated that he could throw the football, lobbing a 13-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Bynum in the Las Vegas Bowl. 

Ahmed and Newton aren't the whole show either. They'll have to share the ball with yet a third wheel.

Sean McGrew, all 5-foot-7 and 186 pounds of him, chipped in 347 yards rushing and a score this past season. He enters his senior season having started three times and played in 31 games. 

McGrew proved himself reliable in tough situations by providing a pair of 100-yard rushing performances on the road in 2019, picking up 110 yards at BYU and 106 at Arizona. 

Cameron Davis finds himself in the mix, too. No relation to Ernie or Anthony, he worked his way onto the field this season. As a redshirt freshman, the 6-foot, 197-pounder even pulled a few snaps midway through the Las Vegas Bowl.

If that isn't enough running-back riches, Lake signed two more widely acclaimed guys last week in Sam Adams II, who like Ahmed hails from Kirkland, Washington, and Jay'Veon Sunday an import from Waco, Texas. 

The 6-1, 194-pound Adams is the son of a former Seahawks defensive tackle and a 14-year NFL vet who goes by the same name and the younger Adams is another full-contact runner. Sunday, at 5-11 and 196 pounds and more of a speedster, was plucked from the backyard of Baylor.

Adams, considered one of the headliners of the recruiting class, plays defense as well as offense at an elite level. Yet Lake won't even debate where he intends to use the newcomer.

"He'll be a running back for us," the coach said of the Eastside Catholic rusher. "We think he'll be a big pounding running back. I love those big backs in the fourth quarter that teams don’t want to tackle."

At Christmas time, Lake will give thanks for all the different packages at his feet.