— By Sean Manning, The Dominion Post
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Kennedy McKoy seems like the heir apparent to Justin Crawford as West Virginia’s starting running back.
Alec Sinkfield and Leddie Brown have drawn strong reviews from the coaching staff and benefit from the unknown factor that always gets a fan base excited.
Then there’s Martell Pettaway, who seems like the forgotten man in the backfield.
That is a far cry from a year ago when Pettaway’s late-season heroics in 2016 were fresh in everyone’s minds. After having his redshirt pulled in the 11th game of his true freshman season, Pettaway bobbed and weaved his way to 180 yards at Iowa State.
With Pettaway expected to see an increased role in 2017, his finishing total of 149 yards on 43 carries seemed lackluster.
Now Pettaway has a chance to recapture the magic he showed two years ago.
There’s no doubt what he brings to a well-rounded backfield. At 5-foot-9 and 210 pounds, he is a between-the-tackles runner, or as Crawford called him last season, a “Mack Truck.”
But Pettaway doesn’t want to be typecast as a bruiser.
“I can do that, definitely, but that’s not all I can do,” he said. “I can get up the field if I need to. It’s a toss-up every day who runs the fastest on the GPS.”
The GPS that players wear around their chest tracks their speed and movements.
Pettaway thinks he’s just as fast as his fellow running backs but knows he needs to make more moves when he gets to the second level.
“I want to start making people miss and get more vertical,” Pettaway said. “I need to start reading receiver’s blocks on safeties and corners, stuff like that.”
Running backs coach Marquel Blackwell also noticed Pettaway’s perceived weakness and wants his junior back to trust what the coaching staff is telling him.
“Martell just needs to continue learning the game,” he said. “If you anticipate things, you also need to listen to the people who are trying to help you. The best ones out there understand where people are supposed to be and where the defense is going to be. I think once he understands that, he’ll go from good to great.”
What makes Pettaway so successful at the line of scrimmage though is his patience, according to McKoy.
“Martell has that knack to wait things out and doesn’t get too overwhelmed,” he said. “He can sit back there and wait for a hole and then hit it as soon as it opens.”
And it doesn’t help that he runs like a bowling ball headed down an alley at Suburban Lanes.
“Yeah, he’s got that low-center of gravity,” McKoy said, “which makes him just bounce off some guys.”