UNH football position preview: Running backs

  • University of New Hampshire running back Evan Gray, who will be a senior this fall, participates in a drill during a spring practice at Wildcat Stadium in Durham. KENDRA MIDDLETON / UNH Athletics

  • University of New Hampshire running back Carlos Washington Jr., who will be a redshirt sophomore in the fall, gestures during a spring practice at Wildcat Stadium in Durham. KENDRA MIDDLETON / UNH Athletics

  • University of New Hampshire running back Dylan Laube (20) waits for the snap to quarterback Ivan Niyomugabo (12), who’s a Merrimack Valley graduate, during a spring practice at Wildcat Stadium in Durham. KENDRA MIDDLETON / UNH Athletics

UNH Insider
Published: 4/23/2019 3:08:47 PM

DURHAM – Redshirt freshman Carlos Washington, Jr. took a handoff on the first play of the University of New Hampshire football game at Villanova University late last October, broke through the line and gashed his way to a 75-yard touchdown.

The touchdown set off a run of good times for the Wildcats.

Washington carried the ball 17 times that day for 179 yards, including a 16-yard score in the second quarter, to lift his team to a decisive and tone-changing 34-0 victory.

New Hampshire entered that game with a 1-6 record and, fueled by the win and utilizing an improved offensive line and running attack, won three of its last four games.

Featuring a three-point attack at running back with Washington, senior-to-be Evan Gray and redshirt freshman Dylan Laube, UNH will look to ride the momentum from that finish into the 2019 season.

The Wildcats have passed the halfway point of its spring season and will conclude spring football with the Blue-White game on May 4 at noon in Wildcat Stadium.

“I think probably the strongest position on our offense is the running back position,” UNH head coach Sean McDonnell said. “I think we have three really good football players there right now in Evan Gray, Carlos Washington and Dylan Laube.”

Gray, 5-foot-10 and 233 pounds, was slowed by injuries last season and has rushed for slightly more than 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career.

“He’s kind of the thunder of the group,” said assistant coach Chris Setian, who works with the running backs. “He’s our biggest guy. He can hit the hole hard downhill. He’s very good with his vision. He’s very patient. He’s our most experienced running back. He doesn’t panic ever really with the ball in the backfield, even if there is some sort of penetration or a line stunt. He’s seen it all, essentially. He’s got great feet, great hips and great vision and great patience, which helps. He’s the calming factor of the group.”

Gray led the team with 650 yards rushing and eight TDs as a sophomore in 2017. He also caught 20 passes for 135 yards and a score that season.

“All of our running backs have great hands,” Setian said. “All of our running backs are very versatile, him included. He can catch out of the backfield. It’s nice to have a kid in our position group that the other guys can look to for advice and just to learn from. He’s doing really well so far.”

Washington kicked off a productive close to his redshirt freshman season with the Villanova game.

Against Albany, he rushed 11 times for 142 yards and had a 93-yard touchdown that was UNH’s longest since a 96-yarder by Jerry Azumah. He went for 109 yards and three scores in a loss at Rhode Island in the season finale.

“Carlos has that combination of size and speed and he’s a slasher,” Setian said. “He has the ability if there’s nothing there at the line of scrimmage, or if something has to change quickly, he could bounce something and go for 40, 50. He can change the game a little bit, He’s got X-play potential. He’s an emotional, competitive kid and just like Evan and Dylan he can catch the ball out of the backfield.”

Washington, 5-foot-11 and 201 pounds, rushed 99 times for 582 yards last year, an average of 5.9 yards a carry, and had 17 catches for 164 yards and a score.

“He can make people miss,” Setian said. “I think that’s his biggest quality. His combination of explosion and change of direction and one-cut ability. He can make a play turn to an X-play, a touchdown, from anywhere on the field. He’s very fun to watch and he makes my job a lot easier.”

Laube was impressive last year in limited action as a true freshman and has kept it going this spring.

“He’s a jitterbug,” Setian said. “You can’t really catch him. He’s fast. He has awesome instincts with the football. And he’s tough. He’s a listener. He’s a learner. Doesn’t make the same mistake twice. Cares about the game. He’s fun to have in the group. He’s always bouncing around and happy. He’s great attitude-wise.”

Laube, 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, starred at Westhampton High School on Long Island, N.Y., and has drawn comparisons to former Wildcat standout Dalton Crossan, who also came out of Long Island.

“He’s got a great set of skills,” Setian said. “He’s a combination. He’s got some Dalton Crossan attributes. We can line him up in different situations. Outside wide. It gives us the ability to have two backs out on the field at the same time because he can do so much. When he gets the ball in his hands, he can take off. He’s another kid who can turn a play into 80 – just like that.”

Jacob Post, a 5-foot-9 and 206-pound redshirt freshman out of Timberlane Regional in Plaistow is also in the mix at running back.

“He has such a want to get on the field and a want to learn,” Setian said. “It’s awesome. He’s very intense. He’s a hard running, tough kid.”

The backs will look to pick up where they left off last season.

With Washington leading the way behind an offensive line that kept coming on as the season progressed, the offense did a lot of damage on the ground late.

The Wildcats averaged 66.4 yards a game rushing through the first seven games last year. They averaged 185.2 yards a game through the last four.

“We’re really excited,” said Setian, who returns to UNH after spending the 2018 season at Brown University. “If you can have a solid running game, it makes a lot easier for your quarterbacks, your wide receivers, even for your O-line. Our O-line is progressing just as well as our running backs and they’ve got some experience because we’ve played some younger guys the last couple of years. ... Having a strong running game is going to be very big for us in this coming year.”




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