Column: Aztecs success on the ground may rely on ability to find back up


Photo by Kelly Smiley

Then-sophomore running back Juwan Washington returns the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown during SDSU’s 34-28 win over NIU.

by Kareem Jones, Contributor

San Diego State football has been known to produce some of the best running backs the country has ever seen.

Year after year, the Aztecs put on a show rushing the ball from endzone to endzone, and in the past two seasons, the team has had two different running backs rush for more than 2,000 yards.

Donnel Pumphrey, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, rushed for 2,133 yards in 2016, while Rashaad Penny rushed for 2,248 yards in the 2017 season before being drafted in the first round by the Seattle Seahawks.

Pumphrey and Penny set the bar high for running backs at SDSU, and this season, junior running back Juwan Washington will try to continue the legacy at the position.

The question now is who Washington will pass the torch to once his time is up.

Every good superhero has a sidekick. Batman and Robin, Superman and Jimmy Olsen, or even Mr. Scarlett and Pinky the Whiz Kid have all done wonderful things. We saw a good superhero and sidekick story at SDSU during the 2016 season, when Pumphrey rushed for over 2,000 yards while Penny finished with over 1,000 yards as his backup.  

The man set to play superhero this year appears to be Washington, but his “sidekick” remains unknown.

Washington watched as his potential backups competed in a scrimmage on Aug. 18 for SDSU’s annual Fan Fest, and said they all have shown potential.  

“They showed flashes here and there,” Washington said. “The main thing is just being physical. That’s one thing we preach on our team is being physical and just make plays.”

Redshirt freshman Chance Bell had a big 26-yard run during the scrimmage, while freshman Jordan Byrd also turned a few heads on the sidelines.

Despite this, the competition isn’t producing as much as they should, and not one candidate did enough as the offense struggled to move the ball against a talented Aztec defense.

Head coach Rocky Long said that none of the team’s running backs particularly stood out during the scrimmage.

“I thought they had some nice runs…but I wouldn’t say any of them looked like the backup running back to me,” Long said.

Sophomore Chase Jasmin ran with the first team offense and had a lot of playing time during the scrimmage, but no one knows if his number will be called when Washington is off the field.

Jasmin said he’s been studying his playbook a lot, working hard in practice and finishing plays as hard as he can to prepare to take over the backup role, if given the opportunity.

“I’m just trying to show and prove to my coaches that I want to be on the field and that I want to play,” Jasmin said. “I want to help my team win.”

SDSU looks to see if it can continue its great lineage of running backs.

We will know come Aug. 31, when the Aztecs open the year on the road against a tough Stanford team looking to avenge its loss to SDSU last season.