He’s not very big. Not big enough to be a lead back and get all those touches, at least. But then again neither were Ray Rice or Brian Westbrook or Warrick Dunn.
A standout athlete at O’Dea high school where he was an all-state runner and returner in football and a 2015 3A state title winner in the 100 meters for the track team, Myles Gaskin chose his home state University of Washington Huskies for the chance to play for head coach Chris Peterson, who had one year under his belt after coming over from Boise State. Peterson began to turn around the program and they found success immediately, compiling a team record of 29-11 in Gaskin’s first three years, including double digit wins the last two seasons. Gaskin decided to return for his senior year. Good news for us.
From the moment he arrived on campus he was off and running, becoming the first true freshman to rush for 1,000 in a season. He also set a freshman record with 14 rushing touchdowns. He’s been the model of consistency, recording over 1,300 yards every season and having his yards per carry go up each year. He comes into the season as the active FBS leader in carries (686) and rushing yards (4,055). He is currently the UW’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 45. He’s listed at 5’10” and 191 pounds on the Huskies website. He’s not very big.
As a Runner
Gaskin runs with good patience, vision, and quickness to allow him to make people miss in the backfield or out in space. He likes to use a quick hesitation move to freeze defenders and burst to get around them. He can run inside despite his lack of size, can get skinny through small holes, press to move defenders, and twist his upper body to decrease the surface area for defenders to make big hits. He runs with good pad level and leg drive, and he’s able to get lower than the defender to gain extra yards. He rarely goes down on the first hit. He shows the speed to outrun defenders to the edge and gets up field quickly.
Below you’ll see versus Utah, Gaskin is in a single back formation in 12 personnel. He’s patient and waits for the pulling guard to engage at the line of scrimmage. He shows good burst and leg drive to run through the arms of a 265 pound defensive end to get seven yards after contact and push his way into the end zone. Coincidently, this was right after the announcer says “You aren’t going to run inside too much” against a stout Utah defense.
Against Stanford, versus an 8 man box on 3rd and 2, Gaskin lets the play develop and finds himself 1 on 1 against safety Justin Reid in the hole. He spins, shows good contact balance, and is able to accelerate ahead for the first down.
Against California, this time on an inside zone run. Again, Gakin shows good patience, uses his eyes and a subtle press to the left to manipulate the safety outside to give himself room to get five.
Then, in this play against UCLA, Gaskin is offset right out of the gun on 3rd and 4. UCLA gets deep penetration into the backfield on a Zone run to the left. He uses a jump cut to get seven yards deep from the LOS and then just speed to get around the edge defender to easily pick up the first down. At the end the announcers compare him to Warrick Dunn and how he’ll have to catch the ball more at the next level.
As a Receiver
I agree with the announcers in that I would like to see him catch the ball more. He was taken out on a lot of obvious passing situations in 2017 and has only 19 receptions each of the last two years but did improve to 12.2 yards per catch. In limited opportunities, he has flashed playmaking ability as a receiver out of the backfield. He runs routes primarily in the short area like swing and screen routes but has also run deeper routes while showing the ability to track the ball over his shoulder and make contested catches.
Against Rutgers, on the first play of the fourth quarter, he is offset to the left left on 1st and ten. He releases at the snap on a corner route to the end zone. He gets behind the defender and makes a nice over the shoulder contested catch, showing soft hands and good sideline awareness to haul in the touchdown on a beautiful touch pass from Jake Browning.
Against Utah, on 2nd and ten, he is offset left in the gun, in a 12 personnel set with both tight ends to the left. He runs a wheel route and wins a mismatch against a defensive end. As the ball is in flight the defensive back undercuts the route. Gaskin shows good concentration and hands to go up and make the catch, displaying his long speed down the sideline for a 76 yard touchdown.
Gaskin is a fun player to watch. He plays bigger than his stature, is able to break tackles, and can make you miss with both speed and agility. Peterson has always been a creative offensive mind and will put Gaskin into situations to succeed. There is a lot expected from this Washington football team, as many preseason polls have them as a top team in the Pac-12 and ranked in the top ten nationally. Washington will get an early test when they open up with Auburn on September 1st in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Mercedes Benz dome in Atlanta.
Gaskin has been a consistent contributor as a runner and we’ll look for more of the same in 2018. Hopefully we’ll see more of him as a receiver as he can be a match up problem for many defenders. As with most backs, he’ll need to improve as a pass protector to stay on the field. If the Huskies and Gaskin can have a big year, he could sneak into the Heisman conversation come November.
He’s not very big. But that doesn’t seem to matter to him.