WILMINGTON, Del. — Sophomore running back Wendell Smallwood, projected to be an essential component of West Virginia’s offense this fall, was arrested by campus police Monday and faces extradition to his home state of Delaware where he will be charged with witness intimidation stemming from a 2012 murder case.
Wilmington police told DelawareOnline.com that Smallwood, 20, repeatedly attempted to convince a witness to recant statements implicating his friend who’s charged with first-degree murder.
WVU police declined to discuss details of Monday’s arrest, in which Smallwood was identified as an out-of-state fugitive. Campus police said chief Bob Roberts would be able to provide more information Tuesday.
Attempts by MetroNews to reach Roberts at home Monday night were unsuccessful. Authorities in Wilmington also declined to discuss Smallwood’s case with MetroNews, citing the fact he has yet to be officially charged.
Smallwood averaged 5.7 yards per carry and made 11 catches for 132 yards during a promising freshman season. His versatility drew raves from coaches and teammates during the spring, forging expectations he could fill the role occupied last season by third-round NFL draft pick Charles Sims. He also was expected to make an impact at kick returner.
“Wendell, the way he came on toward the end of the season, was probably our most-improved player throughout the year,” said West Virginia running backs coach JaJuan Seider.
The praise from offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson in recent months was more effusive: “That kid is skilled, but he’s got the mental capacity to handle a lot of different things. We’re trying to push the limits to what we can do with that kid.”
These latest events cloud his future for the 2014 season and possibly beyond.
Zakee Lloyd of Wilmington was arrested Jan. 8, 2013, and charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 51-year-old Manuel Oliveras on April 14, 2012. Lloyd continues awaiting trial, Cpl. Mark Ivey told DelawareOnline.com.
Ivey alleged that on multiple occasions in March and May 2013 Smallwood “called to try to get a witness to come and make a false statement to police recanting previous statements” that implicated Lloyd.
Smallwood played his first three seasons of high school ball at Red Lion Christian Academy in Wilmington. After Red Lion’s football program was dropped, Smallwood joined his coach and several teammates at Eastern Christian Academy in Elkton, Md., becoming a three-star recruit in his senior season.
The timetable for Smallwood’s return to Delaware remains unclear, though the Monongalia County prosecutor’s office said he signed his extradition papers Monday.