When NC State's depth chart was released Monday, the apparent winner of the running back position battle was junior James Washington, and that's not a surprise.
Washington, 6-foot, 180 pounds, impressed as a true freshman in preseason camp in 2009, winning the third running back spot in the rotation. He carried 21 times for 76 yards and two scores and caught five passes for 44 yards and another touchdown before injuring his knee.
Injuries plagued his preseason in 2010, but he finished the season strong. He carried 71 times for 215 yards and a touchdown, and he had an impressive 27 receptions for 185 yards and a score for the year. Twenty-four of his catches came over the last six games, and in his final three contests Washington ran 45 times for 162 yards.
Now no longer a rookie and fully healthy, Washington feels good about his preseason camp.
"It feels great," Washington admitted. "I was able to be out there for the whole preseason camp. I was able to run all my plays with the ones, learn more from Coach [Everette] Sands, get better at my blocking, overall better at everything."
Sands is the Pack's new running backs coach, taking over for Jason Swepson, who left in January to become the new head coach at Elon. Washington said the biggest adjustment has been the new pass protection technique Sands brought with him.
"I've been working on taking on the blitzer head up," he said. "The drills are different. In the end you still got to get your job done. You got to know your assignment, and he prides himself on doing the little things, so we try to make sure the little things get taken care of."
Washington admits that he had a little extra bounce in his step at the start of camp. The Pack is breaking in new faces in its passing offense, and while redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon and his receivers get on the same page, Washington and the running backs understand that they will have to carry more of the load.
"We have to step up and help lead the team until we have a steady passing attack," Washington stated. "I feel like this year we knew we have to run the ball more so Mike can be successful with the pass, so we have to come in and work hard and keep improving so when the game time comes we should be able to run for days."