The Washington State Cougars have opened up their fall camp and are searching for another weapon to use in Mike Leach‘s high flying offense. They know they have one playmaker in wide receiver Marquess Wilson, but they could always use another pass catcher in this offense. One returning player many thought would get a chance to break out on the ground in 2012 is sophomore running back Rickey Galvin, who led the team in rushing last season as a freshman and averaged over five yards per carry. He showed an elusiveness and explosiveness that could be well utilized by Leach, and the coach seems to be intrigued by Galvin’s talents. So much so, that the unconventional thinking coach had the running back working with the wide receivers in camp.
On the one hand, the move is a little surprising. Galvin seemed to separate himself during his freshman season as the best back that the Cougars had, so why would you make him switch positions? Taking him out of the backfield leaves the woefully disappointing senior Carl Winston, who managed just over three yards per carry while leading the team in touches last season, as your lead back. While the running game certainly isn’t the driving force in a Leach-led offense, surely the best option should still be taking the handoffs?
On the other hand, though, this makes sense. The exact things that made Galvin so successful last year (his speed, elusiveness, quickness) are the exact traits you would want in a slot receiver. His weaknesses (struggling to read blocks, impatience at the hole, and trying to run over larger defenders) would largely be nullified with a move to the slot. Plus, as Mike Leach has said, it’s all about getting as many weapons out into the field as possible at the same time in the best position to make plays. Galvin did make 28 catches last year out of the backfield for 242 yards. Maybe this is just Leach making a move to get a playmaker into a position that better uses his talents.
Most likely, Leach is simply trying to expand the talented sophomore’s skill set by stretching him out as a wide receiver. In today’s college football game, versatility kills. If you have an athlete that can play multiple positions on the field depending on the matchup with the defense, then you have a very valuable offensive weapon that is going to cause nothing but trouble for opposing defensive coordinators.
To find an example of just how valuable this kind of player can be, we need look no further than another sophomore running back in De’Anthony Thomas of the Oregon Ducks. Thomas emerged as an explosive playmaker his freshman season, even though he was the third option at running back. The young runner made his way onto the field by being a weapon in multiple sets and multiple situations, finishing second on the team in receiving in 2011. Opposing defenses struggle to line up with him, because he’s too fast in the slot for a linebacker to cover and an extra defensive back is little help in run support. He makes the defense pick how they lose to him. Looking back in recent history, we see this RB/WR is a role that has led to great success for teams who find the athlete who can fill it (see: Reggie Bush with USC in 2004-2005 and Percy Havin with Florida in 2008). Mike Leach might just be trying to find his slash-back.
If Galvin can grow into the role of running back/wide receiver/punt returner/every other way to get his hands on the ball, he’ll help make the Cougars turnaround that much swifter. Leach predicates his offense on getting athletic playmakers the ball in position to make plays. Galvin has shown an explosive ability from the running back position, and has the skills to be just as explosive catching the ball in space. If he can succeed in that hybrid role, it will be a huge boost to Leach’s first year in Pullman and a nightmare for defensive coordinators trying to scheme against WSU.
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