Meet Richard Newton. He’s the newest member of Washington’s 2018 recruiting class and he’s already providing his new school some much-needed flexibility.
Newton announced Monday evening on Twitter he was committing to the Huskies. A composite three-star prospect, the Palmdale High (Calif.) running back rated by Rivals as the No. 26 player at his position in America while 247 hails him at 38.
The 6-foot-1 and 185-pound Newton becomes the 14th member of UW’s 2018 class. More importantly, he’s the only running back committed to Chris Petersen and his staff for next year.
UW can still add more players as it has a full two months before National Signing Day. But for now, Newton’s biggest contribution is he gives the Huskies some running back depth for 2018.
The Huskies currently have eight running backs on their roster and will lose Lavon Coleman and Ralph Kinne to graduation.
It’s also a possibility the Huskies could see star junior tailback Myles Gaskin leave school a year early. Gaskin has authored three straight seasons of more than 1,000 yards. Should he rush for more than 150 yards in UW’s bowl game, he would become the school’s all-time leading rusher.
WalterFootball.com rates Gaskin as the No. 19 running back in his draft class, should he forgo his senior season. The running back crop is so deep that Stanford star Bryce Love is projected to be the ninth-best player in the group.
As it stands, the Huskies will enter next season with at least six running backs. That number goes to seven if Gaskin stays.
In the event Gaskin leaves, the Huskies appear to have found his heir apparent in freshman Salvon Ahmed. The former four-star and U.S. Army All-American has impressed when given the opportunity. He has 60 carries for 387 yards and most recently rushed nine times for 82 yards in a 41-14 win over Washington State.
Newton’s recruiting film shows he has the ability to be explosive. His tape reveals that his future role could be to replace the 5-foot-11 and 235-pound Coleman as the physical runner who can wear down a defensive front.
At 6-1, Newton would already be the tallest running back on the UW roster. He’s listed at 185 pounds and could weigh more than 190 pounds by the time next season starts.
It’s possible UW could trust an Ahmed-Newton tandem to carry the running game. Ahmed is the most proven running back on the roster while Newton would be the biggest.
Petersen and his staff have shown they have no problem trusting young players who are worthy. Coleman rushed for 565 yards in his first season while Gaskin ran for 1,302 yards as a freshman.
Another aspect in Newton’s favor would be the overall lack of experience at running back beyond Ahmed. UW’s four returning rushers have a combined 78 career yards.
Redshirt freshman Kamari Plesant, who came to UW as a two-star prospect, has 19 yards. Sean McGrew, who is also a redshirt freshman, has rushed for 59 yards.
McGrew, a former four-star prospect, was rated by Rivals the No. 4 all-purpose back in the nation. He was the California Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior in 2015.
The 5-7 and 169-pound McGrew took a redshirt in 2016 and has played in seven games this season.
Newton’s commitment allows UW to build depth while adding some size. Above all, it gives the Huskies one more player for a future that may or may not feature Gaskin.
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark