MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — 130 teams line up and play Division I FBS football. Last season, West Virginia ranked 128th in rushing offense with 73.3 yards per game. They finished ahead of only Washington State and Akron. The Mountaineers scored only seven rushing touchdowns and averaged 2.63 yards per carry.

“I have been shaking my head since the end of the season with those numbers,” running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator Chad Scott said. “The only way we can go is up. I feel like the guys in the first two days (of spring practice) played fast and played with more confidence. They were a little more sure of themselves.

“The chemistry built with those guys and the offensive line working together throughout the winter. We have only been here a year but compared to the offseason we had last year to where they are now, I thought we jelled together better.”

While rushing the ball successfully takes a combination of backs and the offensive line working together effectively, Scott says his backs missed some opportunities to make plays a year ago.

“We have to get better at mastering second-level running. I am talking about avoidability, breaking tackles, making guys miss in one-on-one situations and getting yards beyond what the O-line has blocked for us. We left a lot of yards out there because we didn’t do a good job of making guys miss.”

The candidates

Kennedy McKoy has graduated and Martell Pettaway transferred to Middle Tennessee State. That leaves three scholarship returners in the running back room. Four others could be in the mix as well. Leddie Brown was the team’s leading rusher last year with 367 yards.

“I expect Leddie to play a whole lot faster than he did last year. I’m expecting him to be a little more sure of himself and confident in his ability, trust his speed vertically and trust that he can run through guys. He did a good job of that towards the end of the season.”

Alec Sinkfield is entering his fourth year in the program as a redshirt junior.

“He understands that he has shown flashes. He has potential within him. I think he has to go out there and play with the level of confidence he has when he is not on the game field. He does a phenomenal job in the offseason and in the weight room.”

Freshman Tony Mathis redshirted last year but did catch a touchdown pass against Texas Tech.

“Tough-minded guy, downhill runner and real eager, energetic and a violent runner. The best thing about Tony right now is that he is still young.

“He goes out and he plays fast. He can be wrong, but it is full speed.”

A pair of in-state walk-ons hope to break through. Spring Valley High School graduate Owen Chafin redshirted last year.

“This kid is working his butt off. Even in those first two days, he was able to show some things. He is a real tough kid.”

And Bluefield state champion Jason “Truck” Edwards transferred in after starting his college career at Pittsburgh in 2018.

“He told me, ‘Coach, before I leave this place, there aren’t too many people that have the name Truck. I want to make sure that everybody in West Virginia realizes why they call me Truck’.”

While every coach seeks depth in their respective positions, Scott says that ideally one running back will emerge and become the clear-cut starter.

“You like to have one feature running back, to be honest with you. If you have one feature running back, that is a three-down guy. That’s a guy that can run the football, can catch the ball out of the backfield and you can occasionally line up out wide as a receiver and look like a receiver. If you have that kind of running back, you can take off and do a lot of things.”

Daily motivation on Twitter

Coaches use their trips to social media in many different ways. Scott has developed a Cal Ripken-like record of consistency for starting every day with a relevant quote on his Twitter site.

“It has been about fourteen years that I send a quote out every morning on social media.

“I try to be intentionally positive to start the day. Therefore when something happens like this crisis, we can still remain positive and stick to the routine and fight through it.”

Scott says that William H. McRaven’s quote stands out among the rest.

“You show me a man who won’t bother to do the little things, I will show you a man who can’t be trusted to do big things.”