The Rise of Juwan Washington
At Running Back University Juwan Washington is this season’s frontman.
“Juwan is a beast. He’s going to step in for Penny and be perfectly fine.”- Christian Chapman
Juwan Washington is ready to be the face of a running game that boasts an impressive set of alumni going back to Marshall Faulk. It’s Washington’s turn to take center stage and let his play speak for itself.
Donnel Pumphrey (2,133 yards) and Rashaad Penny (2,248 yards) each did so — making SDSU the only school in history with back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons by different backs. In addition, both backs led the nation in rushing during 2016 and 2017 respectively.
According to Aztecs offensive coordinator Jeff Horton, opposing defenses would be wise to be on alert that Washington is now the tip of the spear.*
Flickers of greatness emerged from Juwan Washington last year. He averaged 10 carries a game in 2017. He rushed for 759 yards and seven touchdowns.
Those flickers turned into a full blaze during this year’s season opener on August 31st at #13 Stanford. While the Aztecs lost 31-10, Washington had 24 carries and a touchdown for a career-high 158 yards. In the same game Heisman hopeful Bryce Love finished with just 18 carries for 29 yards, and three receptions for 18 yards. Love will need to be very hopeful now.
Washington also returns kicks. His most impressive was a 96-yard return for touchdown on the game-opening play against Northern Illinois, and his second a 78-yard kickoff return for a touchdown just before halftime against Army at the Armed Forces Bowl.
Washington’s three career touchdown returns place him among the nation’s active leaders in the category. With two years left to play, Jeff Horton believes Washington can challenge the FBS-record-tying seven TD returns that his former teammate Rashaad Penny had during his career.
Horton’s background in Dallas-Fort Worth helped him discover Washington, who was a top sprinter on the track team at Kennedale High School. Washington ran a hand-timed 4.3 in the 40.
Washington also had a remarkable career with Kennedale’s Wildcats, rushing for 6,776 yards over three seasons while scoring 103 touchdowns. He averaged 9.5 yards a carry over his last two seasons.
He was known as a player who was a threat to go all the way every single time he touched the ball.
Horton believes that great running backs come in all shapes and sizes.
Washington took big interest in the Aztecs when he saw them play North Carolina on the road in 2014. He was thrilled by the way Pumphrey challenged the #21 Tar Heels, running for 100 yards and two touchdowns in an eventual 31–27 North Carolina win.
“I saw Pump running the football with his size and stature against this bigger school and told my mom, ‘This is perfect for me. Here was this small guy getting a chance, and that was what I was hoping to get. Just an opportunity to show what I can do.”
Washington has similarities to Donnel Pumphrey, who entered the NFL draft standing just 5’8″ and 176 lbs.
The 5’7″ and 190-lb Washington has been more recently and accurately described as a Pumphrey/Penny hybrid. He is more solid than Donnel, but with similar shiftiness to the NCAA all-time rushing leader. He is smaller than the 5-11, 220-pound Penny- but still able to give and take big hits
Horton says that while Pumphrey is the most agile of the trio, Washington might be the fastest.
“He kind of has deceptive speed, so it looks like he’s gliding at times,” Horton said. “But when you see him run back the kickoffs for touchdowns or break off long runs, he can certainly go get it.”
According to Washington, “When Pump was leaving, he said, ‘Rashaad, it’s your turn. Go make plays.’ After the season, Rashaad told me after the bowl game, ‘Next year, you gotta step up and be the player everyone knows you can be.’ That meant a lot to me.”