A running-backs unit described recently by Washington football coach Tyrone Willingham as "bone thin" added a lot more muscle Monday.
Michael Houston, a 6-foot-1, 238-pound former University of Texas running back who has transferred to UW, won't be eligible to play until next season.
After finally completing academic requirements, Houston put on a No. 34 jersey and practiced with the Huskies on Monday, becoming only the fourth tailback on the active roster and one of only two who has eligibility beyond this season.
After sitting out this season as a transfer, he will have three years of eligibility left.
"That's an area where we will need some quality young men to step up," Willingham said.
Houston, a native of Denver, played in two games at Texas last season, gaining 27 yards on three carries. He decided to transfer in December before the Longhorns beat USC in the Rose Bowl.
Houston was not available to talk with reporters Monday.
In a news release last December, Houston said only that "it was a very difficult decision but one I feel is in my best interest."
Willingham said Houston had been attending a junior college since leaving Texas in an attempt to gain academic eligibility.
He could quickly move into a position of prominence next season as UW has just one other tailback on its current roster set to return next year, junior Louis Rankin. Former Bellevue High star J.R. Hasty, academically ineligible this season, is expected to return next year.
The team's lack of depth at running back has been such that it is beginning to experiment using tight end Johnie Kirton as a short-yardage back. He got one carry in Saturday's scrimmage and a few more Monday when the Huskies again practiced short-yardage situations.
"He did a good job," said offensive coordinator Tim Lappano. "We'll just keep working with him on that. We have a lack of depth so we don't want to get caught short. We're still evaluating it. We had a long session with it [Monday] so we'll see what he does. But he's doing OK there."
Willingham said his impression of Saturday's scrimmage didn't change after watching the film.
"I thought it was sloppy," he said. "We just missed a lot of things we have the ability to do."
"We weren't able to run the ball as well as I wanted and hoped for," Lappano said. "I thought it was a lot like last year. I wasn't real pleased with the way we ran the ball out of out two-back sets, but I liked how we ran it out of one-back sets. I thought [quarterback] Isaiah [Stanback] saved us a couple of times."
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