MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia is losing its top receiver to the NFL draft but its leading rusher plans to return.
Junior 1,000-yard rusher Justin Crawford indicated in a Wednesday night tweet that he plans to remain in school for his final season:
I will wear that old gold and blue for one more amazing year of my life. 💯💯💯💯💯💯💯💯💯💯💯💯💯💯💯💯💪💪💪💪💪💪💪💪💪💪💪💪💪🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈
— justin crawford (@datcrawfordboyy) January 12, 2017
With Texas All-American D’Onta Foreman and Oklahoma’s tandem of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine among 18 underclassmen running backs entering the draft, Crawford would stand as the Big 12’s top returning rusher next season.
Crawford reportedly considered testing the draft in order to support his wife and two children. His departure would have been a blow to a backfield that’s losing senior Rushel Shell and returns sophomores Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway.
The only running back recruit for the current class is 5-foot-5 Tevin Bush of New Orleans, a three-star prospect who may be utilized primarily as a slot receiver and special-teams returner.
West Virginia’s leading receiver, junior Shelton Gibson, revealed Wednesday he was foregoing his senior season for the draft.
The former national junior-college player of the year, Crawford ran for 1,184 yards and four touchdowns this past season, averaging a league-best 7.3 per carry.
He showed a boom-or-bust tendency while coping with a midseason ankle injury and learning facets of the offense. His 331-yard outburst during a 56-28 loss to Oklahoma came within 13 of Tavon Austin’s program record set in 2012. Crawford added 209 yards in the regular-season finale, a 24-21 win over Baylor. His other 100-yard performances came against Missouri, Kansas State and Kansas.
In contrast he made seven or fewer carries five times, including a quiet six rushes for 16 yards during the 31-14 Russell Athletic Bowl loss to Miami.
Expect Crawford to become a larger factor in the pass game next fall after making 14 catches for only 68 yards.