10:06am: Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval

Is versatile Smallwood the Big 12’s top pass-catching RB?

Today’s video brings another installment in the MetroNews countdown of the 10 Most Pivotal Mountaineers for the 2015 football season. These aren’t necessarily West Virginia’s “best” 10, or the ones appearing on those bloated preseason watch lists. But they’re the players whose production will hold answers to the biggest preseason questions.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — From 50 touches as a freshman to 179 last season, Wendell Smallwood became an integral component in West Virginia’s offense.

Now he’s teaming with Rushel Shell as options 1 and 1A in a backfield that’s capable, though not as deep as 2014’s.

While Shell’s receiving skills were a pleasant surprise, Smallwood has displayed versatility since his high school days when he frequently lined up in the slot. He caught 31 passes as a sophomore, looking comfortable on all sorts of routes, not just the short, high-percentage screens and swing passes.

His ability to run seam routes allows West Virginia to exploit matchups by shifting formations without substituting. With Kevin White and Mario Alford gone, Smallwood could become one of the Mountaineers’ top deep threats, and he’s the favorite to lead all Big 12 running backs in receptions this fall.

Previous videos in the countdown:

No. 10 — Defensive end Noble Nwachukwu
No. 9 — Offensive lineman Marquis Lucas
No. 8 — Cornerback Daryl Worley
No. 7 — Running back Rushel Shell
No. 6 — Offensive lineman Kyle Bosch
No. 5 — Receiver Shelton Gibson
No. 4 — Quarterback Skyler Howard