Washington Huskies

Gaskin’s big game adds intrigue to Huskies’ tailback competition

Washington running back Myles Gaskin (9) ran for 146 yards Saturday against Sacramento State, the third-most by a true freshman in Huskies history.
Washington running back Myles Gaskin (9) ran for 146 yards Saturday against Sacramento State, the third-most by a true freshman in Huskies history. The Associated Press

Myles Gaskin’s 14-carry, 146-yard, 3-touchdown day against Sacramento State introduced yet another problem for the Washington Huskies’ running game.

A good one, this time.

Gaskin, the true freshman out of Seattle’s O’Dea High School, displayed patience, quickness and the kind of burst that could make him an intriguing option for the Huskies in his first collegiate season, his performance highlighted by a 78-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

Dwayne Washington, widely viewed as the Huskies’ top tailback entering the season, scored two touchdowns Saturday but carried the ball only four times for 13 yards. Washington is still listed atop the UW depth chart, with Gaskin now slotted as second string.

It remains to be seen how carries might be divided among the two Saturday against Utah State, to say nothing of how often Lavon Coleman, Jomon Dotson and Deontae Cooper might play. But after UW rushed for just 29 yards on 22 attempts in a season-opening loss at Boise State, Gaskin’s emergence is a welcome dilemma.

“I think they’re much different backs,” UW coach Chris Petersen said Monday of Gaskin and Washington, when asked if the freshman might take over as UW’s featured back. “That’s the thing I think we kind of like. I think Myles is different than the other guys we have. We’ve all seen Dwayne do some pretty good things against some pretty good competition, so we know he can do some good things.

“Myles, we’re still figuring out. We’ve been pleased with him since he’s been here in fall camp and the first couple of games. He’s shown he can make some plays. We don’t ever say, ‘Hey, this is the guy.’ We’ve got to get a bigger body of work under our belt and we’ve got to let the guys keep earning things in practice.”

Part of that equation, Petersen said, is Gaskin proving himself durable enough to withstand several hits per game by Pac-12-caliber defenders. Sacramento State doesn’t have many of those. And Gaskin, after all, was not immune to UW’s weak rushing effort against Boise State, taking five carries in that game for a total of just five yards.

But it was hard not to watch him run against the Hornets and wonder if the Huskies might be on to something.

“I think early on,” Petersen said, “his style kind of indicates that he’s pretty shifty and can kind of slide things at the last minute, but again, these are some pretty fast, big, strong guys that we’re getting ready to go up against for a long period of time.

“We need more than just two backs. … Those two guys are kind of rolling right now, and those other guys are going to have to be ready, and they’ll get their opportunity, as well.”

Joyner out for season

Petersen said freshman cornerback Austin Joyner, a former Marysville-Pilchuck High School star, will miss the rest of the season after sustaining a knee injury on the opening kickoff of Saturday’s game.

Joyner, one of 10 true freshmen to see the field in UW’s first two games, will almost certainly be granted a redshirt for this season.

“He just kind of planted weird running down there on the kickoff,” Petersen said. “The good news is he got a game under his belt, prepared him like he was planning on playing, which we were. He can still use this year as a redshirt year and take it like most college freshman do and get him dialed into the academics and have time to rehab and we’ll have a full year to get him back.”