MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Today brings the seventh episode of an eight-day video series providing a position-by-position examination of where the West Virginia football team stands after spring practice.
We scour the two-deep and break down a Mountaineers team seeking to improve upon last season’s 4-8 finish.
Tue., April 15
Wed., April 16
Thur., April 17
Fri., April 18
Mon., April 21
Tue., April 22
Wed., April 23
Running backs: Is this the best unit in the Big 12?
Thur., April 24
Quarterbacks: Can any of the current QBs win eight games?
Despite losing 2013 offensive MVP Charles Sims—whose one-year stopover produced 1,095 yards rushing, 45 receptions and 14 combined touchdowns—West Virginia isn’t concerned about its running backs situation. There’s too much talent, too much versatility returning.
“Everybody says we were going to have a big dropoff with losing a great player like Charles, but I thought our guys answered the bell in the spring,” said running backs coach JaJuan Seider. “There are some pretty talented guys in that room. I think a couple of them may be able to play on Sundays if they do what they need to do.”
Pitt transfer Rushel Shell is the best power back, while Dreamius Smith marries a breakaway burst with the ability to pound between the tackles. Then there’s the sleaker Wendell Smallwood, who feels equally natural running draws as he does catching passes in the slot.
“Will we have a bellcow? I don’t know,” Seider said. “But I know if a guy gets hot, he’s going to stay in there, and I think we’ve got some guys who can get hot really fast.”
“We probably won’t have a guy go for 1,700 or 1,800 yards because we’re pretty deep in that backfield. But let’s be a group that at the end of the year we have 2,500 or 2,700 yards rushing as a whole group, because then you are productive.”
Projected starters: Smith (5-11, 224, senior) and Shell (6-0, 218, redshirt sophomore) figure to command the bulk of the carries, but Smallwood (5-11, 202, sophomore) possesses a Sims-like versatility.
“In the spring, he probably was our best football player,” Seider said.
Cody Clay (6-4, 256, redshirt junior) is the leader at H-back. He displays a body a built for blocking but possesses enough mobility and hands to make possession-type catches from the slot.
Backups: Dustin Garrison (5-8, 180, redshirt junior) and Andrew Buie (5-9, 188, redshirt junior) appear to be down the pecking order. They are guys competent enough to contribute situationally should injuries necessitate, but not the kind of backs that typically start for a Big 12 power. Then again, few programs have the luxury of a fourth-string tailback like Garrison who led the team in rushing as a freshman, or a fifth-stringer like Buie who carved up Texas for 200-plus.
At the H-back, Elijah Wellman (6-2, 235, redshirt freshman) emerged as a goal-line receiving threat during the spring.
Watch the video at the top of the page for player highlights and to learn how Allan Taylor and Justin Hoff grade the running backs after spring practice.