The Favorite – Myles Gaskin
On his way to becoming one of the most productive running backs in school history, Gaskin has shown remarkable consistency. In each of his three seasons, he has run the ball between 222 and 237 times for an average of 5.7-6.2 yards per carry. His overall touchdowns jumped last year, from 14 and 11 his first two seasons to 24 last year. He has also shown an improved ability as a pass catcher, improving his YPC average each season from 3.2 to 7.2 to 12.2. Going into his senior year, Gaskin will likely eclipse Napoleon Kaufman’s school record for rushing yards within the first game or two. He already holds the school record with 45 rushing touchdowns. He has already firmly established himself in the conversation as the greatest rusher in school history?
So why is Gaskin the favorite to win offensive MVP? Above all else, it is his consistency. Regardless of how well the young receivers develop or whether Browning makes optimal decisions throwing the ball, a healthy Gaskin is going to log well over five yards per carry. With four returning offensive linemen and even less of a time share due to Lavon Coleman’s graduation, every indication points to yet another great season from Gaskin.
The #1 Contender – Jake Browning
I’m sure that many Husky fans would assume that Browning is the favorite to be the offensive MVP and some others would rather dismiss him from the discussion altogether. The biggest question about Browning’s productivity is whether 2018 looks more like his record-setting 2016 or his more pedestrian 2017. To be fair, there were some signs of progress last year, like his career-best 68.5% completion rate and only five picks all season. Nonetheless, the decline from 43 to 19 TDs and 700 passing yards goes beyond the mere absence of John Ross (and Gaskin’s TD outburst has a lot to do with filling that gap).
The smart money on Browning’s 2018 performance is that it will fall somewhere in the middle. Even without Dante Pettis and many questions around Hunter Bryant’s health, the rest of the receiving corps has a year of experience under its belt. On top of that, he will receive an infusion of new talent from Austin Osborne and Marquis Spiker. If Browning finishes the year with 24-28 TDs and about 3000 passing yards, will that make him the offensive MVP? Naturally, the narrative will come into play, including how well he performed in the team’s biggest games. Since Gaskin has produced like clockwork, the slight inconsistency in Browning’s numbers makes me place the QB slightly below the top spot.
Fans like most of us have a limited ability to analyze the nuances of offensive line play. It’s easy enough to see if the line is winning at the point of contact in the run game, or if the QB gets enough time to go through his progressions, but it’s harder to pinpoint what goes into those results. Due to that difficulty and the lack of stats to approximate value, it’s hard for an offensive lineman to beat out a skill position player for an award. Even so, Trey Adams, Kaleb McGary, and Nick Harris deserve special mention here. If the Huskies win the Pac-12 North again, that group will certainly have a lot to do with their success. A smarter football mind than me might be able to intelligently compare their year-end performance with the likes of Gaskin and Browning.
Another dark horse in this race is Hunter Bryant. We know he is dealing with a knee injury. Coach Petersen indicated that he might miss 3-4 weeks. We don’t know if the injury is directly related to the injury that kept him out of several games last year or if he separately re-injured the same knee. I have mentally limited my expectations for him this year because it’s hard to imagine someone with a recurring knee injury miraculously regaining full strength very quickly. But if Bryant does get back to the level he showed at times last year, he could unlock new dimensions of the offense. If the team sputters out of the gate due to a lack of receiving options and bounces back when Bryant reenters the offense, it could create a clear before-and-after picture that demonstrates his value.
What do you think? Can the likes of Aaron Fuller or Chico McClatcher fill the holes in the passing game? Will Salvon Ahmed break out to become a play-making x-factor? Will Colson Yankoff fill in for an injured Browning and lead the conference in yards from scrimmage? Who knows?
Who will be UW’s offensive MVP?
1. Myles Gaskin
2. Jake Browning
3. The Field
124 votes total