As a skinny senior running back at O’Dea High School, Myles Gaskin wasn’t sure that Chris Petersen’s new coaching staff would honor the UW scholarship offered to him by Steve Sarkisian. Petersen’s staff kept the offer open, and it turned out to be a program-altering decision in the best possible way. Gaskin became the starting running back for the Huskies from day one and has cemented himself on the list of legendary Husky ball carriers.
In fact, Husky fans have been spoiled with outstanding rushers. Chris Polk and Bishop Sankey immediately preceded Gaskin with outstanding production on their paths to the NFL. Their standout play skews the perception of what Gaskin has accomplished. Rather than an all-time great, he looks like a continuation of brilliance, or perhaps a slight upgrade. In fact, Gaskin has already surpassed his predecessors and has a chance to etch himself into the history books in several other categories.
Gaskin enters his senior year with 4055 rushing yards. Depending on where one does one’s research, he’s either Washington’s career rushing leader or close to it. Napoleon Kaufman totaled either 4041 yards (according to sports-reference.com, ESPN, and other sites), 4106 (UW’s 2017 Media guide and Wikipedia), or 4401 (Kaufman’s page on UW’s official website). I’m inclined to believe that the last number is illegitimate because it’s simply the more reputable 4041 with the middle digits transposed- although it’s odd that UW would transpose the numbers from sports-reference rather than its own media guide. I also find the 4041 figure more reputable than the 4106 figure because the only year-by-year breakdown available totals 4041. Therefore, for the purposes of this post, Gaskin is already UW’s career rushing leader, but even under a set of alternative facts, he is likely to surpass Kaufman very early in the season.
Gaskin also has a chance to become the ninth NCAA RB to ever post four 1000-yard seasons in his career and the first to ever do it in the Pac-12. Even so, it would be a tall order to set the conference rushing record because Royce Freeman’s 5621 total is likely out of reach given Gaskin’s past performances. Including bowl games, USC’s Charles White is even further ahead with 6245 yards, though his era did not count bowl games as career stats, so he officially trails Freeman by 23 yards.
One of Gaskin’s chief virtues has been his remarkable consistency. He has totaled between 1302 and 1380 yards in each of his three seasons. If he repeats his lowest mark, it would bring his career total to 5357, while a repeat of his highest would bring that total to 5435. Either figure would place him eleventh on the NCAA career rushing list. If he topped the previous high by only six more yards, he would crack the top 10. He would need to amass 1485 yards to catch Cedric Benson for ninth, 1541 to pass Travis Prentice for eighth, and 1544 to overtake White. A best-case scenario where he rushes for over 1566 yards would give him sixth place all-time and the Pac-12 record, but it would be almost impossible for him to catch DeAngelo Williams for fifth place with 6026 total yards.
After Gaskin found the end zone a remarkable 21 times in 2017, there’s no dispute over the school’s rushing TD leader: he has that distinction with 45. Bishop Sankey is second with 37, followed by Kaufman with 33. Gaskin came close to Corey Dillon’s single-season record of 24 last year, but he’s unlikely to eclipse that mark unless the passing game sputters even more than it did a season ago.
The all-time NCAA record is certainly out of reach for Gaskin. Former Navy QB Keenan Reynolds scored a remarkable 88 times in his career. Even the RB record, held by former Wisconsin Badger Montee Ball, is an unreachable 77. Royce Freeman owns the Pac-12 rushing TD record with 60, meaning that Gaskin would need 15 to tie or 16 to eclipse the former Duck for the record. That output would surpass his 2015 and 2016 totals (14 and 10, respectively), but it does not appear entirely unrealistic. If Gaskin repeated his 2017 output of 21, it would leave him with 65 career rushing TDs, a Pac-12 record and sixth most in NCAA history. On his way there, he would also pass former Pac-12 luminaries like LenDale White (52), LaMichael James (53), and Ken Simonton (56). Interestingly, he would also have to pass two players Petersen coached at Boise St, Brock Forsey (50) and Ian Johnson (58). If Gaskin merely replicates his lowest TD output this year, he would finish his career with 55 TDs, good for third in Pac-12 history and tied with Tony Dorsett, Chester Taylor, and DeAngelo Williams for nineteenth in NCAA history.
Gaskin currently holds the UW record for yards per carry for anyone who has totaled at least 100 carries in his career. His average of 5.9 edges out Dwayne Washington’s 5.8 and Kaufman and Dillon at 5.7 each. With a lower qualifying threshold of 50 career carries, the top average in UW history is Shaq Thompson, with 7.5 yards per carry on 61 carries. Chico McClatcher has equaled that mark on 39 carries, so a healthy and productive return for Chico could earn him a spot in the record books, as well.
Barring injury, Gaskin will pass Kaufman and Polk for the school record in rushing attempts around the middle of the season. Gaskin’s 686 carries trail Kaufman’s 710 by 24 and Polk’s 799 by 113. Ron Dayne carried the ball a whopping 1220 times for Wisconsin from 1996-99, so the NCAA record for rushing attempts is out of the question. Likewise, Charles White’s 1147 carries for USC is not an attainable goal.
Before I conclude, I should mention Joe Steele, the oft-forgotten name on the list of great Husky RBs. Gaskin, Polk, Kaufman, Sankey, and Dillon have all popped up multiple times in this post, but Steele played in another era. From 1976-79, he rushed for 3091 yards and 32 TDs, good for fifth and fourth in school history. Steele played fewer games than others on this list and played in a more defense-dominated era, so gaudy numbers were hard to come by. Nonetheless, Steele was a workhorse who is definitely among Husky RB greats.
I’d love to hear more in the comments about which records you would most like to see Gaskin set. Do the school records mean the most to you? Would you prefer to see him get into a national top 10 versus setting a conference record? Or are individual records meaningless compared to team success? Also, vote in the poll: by year’s end, where will Gaskin land in your own rankings of all-time Husky RBs?
Where will Gaskin rank among all-time UW RBs when he graduates?
#1- the GOAT
#4 or below
334 votes total