Washington State Football: Cougars Need to Establish Running Game

2/27/14 in NCAAF   |   chris901   |   24 respect

Spring football practice has not even begun in Pullman, but the Washington State Cougars already have a need to rush.

Wazzu doesn’t need to rush in terms of time, but its offense in the last two seasons under coach Mike Leach has shown one glaring flaw: a lack of a rushing attack.

Leach is famous for his Air Raid offense, which incorporates a heavy amount of passing plays, balanced by screen passes that function as the team’s running game. A few running plays litter the playbook, but they have been less than effective.

With veteran running backs Marcus Mason and Teondray Caldwell returning for next season, the Cougars have plenty of talent to utilize. They also have recruited a new running back out of Milpitas (CA), named Squally Canada

Leach said Canada is a very explosive running back and a great all-purpose player, which means the team can utilize him in multiple sets once he proves himself ready for the college level.

Meanwhile, the incoming freshman has expressed his desire to make an impact however he can, and believes his best quality he can bring to the Cougars is his versatility. 

“I know I’m probably sacrificing touches but to get the ball, I have to do something when I get the opportunity to do it,” Canada said during an interview. “So if they see me doing well when I get the ball, hopefully they will up the carries more.”
During his time in high school, Canada ran out of shotgun formations several times, which will fit in well with the Cougars’ current style of offense. Time and again, Canada proved he could line up next to the quarterback and break big runs on defenses expecting a pass. 

Mason and Caldwell are similar types of running backs who usually line up next to the quarterback and catch the ball in the backfield. The two totaled 78 receptions last season, and Mason scored two receiving touchdowns. Mason and Caldwell combined for only three touchdowns on the ground during the entire season. It was Jeremiah Laufasa who found the end zone most, scoring seven times throughout the year. Laufasa will transfer to the University of Texas at El Paso for next season.

However, the running game stalled many times during the season. The Cougars averaged only 2.9 yards per carry, and totaled single-digit rushing yards against USC, Oregon, and Arizona State. They actually rushed for negative yards in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl against Colorado State.
Only California ran for less than 100 yards against Washington State this season, and interestingly enough, that game was a 44-22 victory for WSU. The college game in general is moving toward a faster style, and with mobile quarterbacks in the mix, the Cougars will need to advance their offense in that area too. 

The Pac-12 shows no signs of slowing down, and in order to keep up with the competition and to continue improving, the Cougars will have to ramp up their pace in the running game.

Would an effective running game help Washington State's offensive success in 2014? Let us know in the comment box below, or let us know on Twitter!
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