Pack offense in good handsPublished 7:51pm Friday, June 21, 2013
As a sophomore, Washington running back Markel Spencer dominated in his first full season on the varsity squad as he rushed for over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns despite missing a handful of games due to an ankle injury.
However, the 5’7” 165-pound bowling ball of a running back is not resting on his successful rookie campaign and has dedicated himself to becoming more of a complete back as the Pam Pack continues its summer workouts and seven-on-seven exhibition games.
There’s no doubt Spencer can create havoc for opposing defenses on any given handoff but the goal for the rising junior is to become equally dangerous in the passing game.
“I want to get better at catching. This is the catching part of the offseason and that’s what I’m focusing on right now,” Spencer said. “I want to be a running back that can run but also has good hands.”
Washington football coach Sport Sawyer agreed and said that Spencer’s abilities as a rusher is undeniable, but that the next phase in his development is to work on his receiving skills.
“He’s got a great burst of speed. He’s got great downhill speed and when he touches the ball he can house it any play,” Sawyer said. “But we’re working on him catching the ball out of the backfield a little bit more. He’s gotten better at that but if there is a weakness right now it’s catching the ball out of the backfield.”
With the graduation of dual-threat QB Jimmy Williams, Spencer figures to be the focal point for defenses. If he can emerge as a receiving threat it will help prevent teams from loading up against the run.
“We got to see if he can carry the load this year,” Sawyer said. “People are going to key on him because he ran for 1,200 yards last year. We want to see if he can carry the load. He’s going to be a junior so it’s time for him to bring his ‘A’ game.”
Spencer said he’s up for the challenge.
“Whatever they need me to do I’m going to do,” Spencer said.
If Spencer’s hands progress the same way his running ability has it opens up a world of potential for the Pam Pack offense.
“He’s so fast, I would love to see if we can put him in motion and throw it to him on some wheel routes out of the backfield and get him isolated on some linebackers,” Sawyer said. “That’s what we want to see.”
Aside from improving his receiving skills, Spencer is also working on his pass protection. If he can progress in both of the those areas then the Pam Pack would be able to keep the gifted rising junior on the field for just about any down and distance scenario.
Spencer, who can bench press 240 pounds, has gotten stronger but still has a ways to go when it comes to protecting the QB.
“He’s gotten strong enough and a little bigger where I think he can (pass protect) but we still might have to swap him out for someone else (in those situations),” Sawyer said. “But I think he will be alright as a pass blocker.”