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Sports >  WSU football

Washington State mailbag: Discussing the present and future for shelved running back Max Borghi

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 18, 2020

Max Borghi hasn’t played a snap for Washington State this season and he’s the main topic of this week’s mailbag.

Question one: With the solid performances by Deon McIntosh in Max Borghi’s absence, how do you see the distribution of playing time between them when Borghi returns?

Question two: With Borghi missing two games thus far, do you see that leading to a greater probability of his return next season?

- John D.

Answer one: If Borghi returns to the field this season at full strength, I’d have no reason to think he wouldn’t usurp McIntosh as the team’s lead back again. McIntosh’s emergence has been timely, both for him and the offense, and Nick Rolovich has indicated the redshirt senior is an ideal fit for what the Cougars are doing offensively. He’s been fantastic, and if WSU has to ride him the rest of the way I still think the offense has the potential to put plenty of points on the scoreboard.

However, there’s a reason media members chose Borghi as a Preseason All-Pac-12 First Team running back, and there’s a reason his name showed up ahead of McIntosh’s when the Cougars released their first depth chart. I’m not sure Borghi wouldn’t have cashed in a touchdown or two on a few of McIntosh’s longer runs and there’s obviously a few things he does that McIntosh doesn’t – and not nearly as many the other way around. If Borghi came back by, say, the fourth or fifth week of the season, it might offer a nice respite for McIntosh anyway.

Imagine if the Cougars could use Borghi for the first few drives of a game, plug in a fresh McIntosh on the third possession, and keep the backs rotating throughout. I’m sure Rolovich and his staff spent much of their preseason plotting out something like that . It’s anyone’s guess if we’ll ever get to see it.

Answer two: I genuinely don’t think Borghi is in a rush to get to the NFL. When reporters spoke with him in a preseason Pac-12 webinar, the running back was pretty convincing when he talked about the possibility of opting out – something a handful of other high-profile players around the conference did to get a headstart on NFL prep.

“I only considered opting in,” Borghi said.

Of course, at that point he also wasn’t counting on a long-term back injury derailing his junior season. Even if he doesn’t play a game in 2020, Borghi, in my opinion, would still hear his name called next spring. Consider that 18 running backs were selected in the 2020 NFL Draft and 25 the year prior. Per Pro Football Focus, Borghi is the ninth-best draft eligible running back, which would translate to a fourth, fifth or sixth-round pick. That’s one website’s opinion, but I’m sure others think highly of Borghi as well.

Running backs have a short shelf life, and Borghi’s already suffered two serious injuries playing the position: an ACL injury his junior year at Pomona High School and the undisclosed back injury that’s kept him sidelined this season at WSU. If Borghi felt another year of college football would jeopardize his future earnings, and gathered enough intel that suggested he’d be drafted, it’d be hard to blame him for skipping ahead to the NFL.

Yes, another season at the college level could help his stock, especially playing in Rolovich’s more run-oriented offense, but I’m not sure that’s a gamble worth taking if it’s a matter of one, two or even three rounds in the NFL Draft.

Hoping you can find out more about Joey Hobert. All preseason the talk was on how this kid excelled and was really standing out as one of the better playmakers for WSU. Two games in not a lick. I’ve seen him on the field for maybe two plays over those games and nothing towards his direction. What’s the deal or is there more to why the kid is not getting playing time? I know he plays same position and behind Bell but thought they were moving him around to have familiarity with all the WR positions.

- Jeff M.

The lack of playing time for Hobert isn’t as much a reflection on Hobert as it is Rolovich’s offensive philosophy. You’re correct, he has played a few different positions throughout camp, working both in the slot and on the outside. That should make him more versatile down the road and up his chances of playing time if one of the starters is injured.

It still doesn’t change the fact Rolovich strictly plays four receivers, unlike Mike Leach, who famously rotated eight. The player Hobert is behind on the depth chart currently leads the Pac-12 in receiving yards and broke out with 10 catches for 158 yards and one touchdown last week.

I do wonder if we’ll see a little more of Hobert as the season goes on. Even with Rolovich’s philosophy, it might be hard to keep four receivers in for every snap of a four-quarter football game by the hypothetical sixth or seventh week of the season. There’s no reason to think he won’t be a big part of their plans moving forward, but for now there’s simply too much talent and experience ahead of him.

Is Anthony Gordon injured? Thought for sure he would at least end up on a practice squad somewhere but it doesn’t even appear he is trying out. No demand for his services?

- Brandon E.

I haven’t heard about an injury, although I can’t answer that for certain.

Gordon and other undrafted free agents ran into a set of circumstances nobody else in their position has ever had to face. The lack of a traditional preseason made it challenging for players in Gordon’s shoes to establish themselves with an NFL team. Even if the Seahawks were planning to go a different direction, in a normal year he may have played in two or three preseason games. Perhaps he would’ve been good enough in one of those to attract a few other NFL suitors.

By many accounts, Gordon was solid in his brief stint with the Seahawks, but the bizarre nature of the pre-draft process meant no traditional pro day for the WSU quarterback. Even if teams are allowed to bring in players for workouts, it doesn’t feel like they’re doing it as regularly this season.

With the abundance of NFL injuries and COVID-19-related absences this season, you’d still think there’s an opportunity for Gordon somewhere. While I won’t dare compare the college careers of Gordon and Luke Falk, I’m not positive the former’s skills don’t translate better to the pro game – if not that, then at least on par – yet Gordon’s still waiting on a call.

What are those yahoos drinking in the Crimzone?

- Blog my Rabbit

Cardboard containers of Fireball, I’m guessing.

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