Separating themselves: Shell, Smallwood even better than Seider expected

West Virginia’s Wendell Smallwood received high praise from running backs coach JaJuan Seider.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood entrenched as West Virginia’s top ballcarriers, their position coach essentially can spend fall camp practicing his superlatives, right?

JaJuan Seider glowingly obliged us Wednesday.

“Rushel’s body is in best shape it’s been in a long time,” said Seider. “The first two days of practice he looked really crisp. Great cutting and getting upfield fast.”

WVU running back Rushel Shell watches from the sidelines during preseason practice.

Currently listed at 5-foot-10 and 221 pounds, Shell’s physique has turned from pudgy to powerful since transferring from Pitt in the summer of 2013 and sitting out a year. Last season’s team-high totals of 788 rushing yards and seven touchdowns were tempered by a high ankle sprain that cost him chunks of four games.

While Smallwood ran for 722 yards, only four runs exceeding 20 yards (out of 148 carries). Seider’s early camp evaluation suggests Smallwood will break a few more this fall:

“He’s running like Mario (Alford) ran for us last year. He’s just so explosive right now.”

Recall that Alford ran back three kickoffs for scores and scorched secondaries with his yards after the catch. He also unofficially ran a 4.25 at West Virginia’s pro day. If Smallwood—who devoted part of his offseason to speed training—can develop anything resembling Alford’s gear, the Mountaineers may have their breakaway threat.

When it comes to WVU’s front-running juniors, most of Seider’s focus is keeping them sharp.

“There’s always fundamentals and techniques you can work on, like proper footwork, and blocking is an everyday occurrence,” said Seider.

And considering Shell and Smallwood each fumbled three times in 2014, losing two, the coach reminded “you never get through talking about ball security.”

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