MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Depth is a concern at multiple positions for West Virginia this season. Running back, however, is not one of them. If anything, the opposite is true — there’s so much talent that it will be hard to keep everyone happy.
But the Mountaineers are finding a way.
Preseason practices have seen a noticeable rise in sets featuring two running backs, whether aligned on each side of the quarterback in the shotgun or with a back split out into the slot.
“I think that’s the most talented room on the football team. You could put them anywhere on the field and they’re going to make a play, whether that’s wide receiver or running back,” said junior offensive lineman Josh Sills. “Heck, I think you could probably even put them at quarterback. They’re athletic.”
Kennedy McKoy and Alec Sinkfield have frequently worked from the slot while Leddie Brown and Martell Pettaway have remained the more traditional tailbacks.
“That’s huge, because we want to play fast,” said WVU running backs coach Chad Scott. “And to play fast, you have to be able to have the personnel on the field to present multiple looks. Sometimes even if it’s the same play, you’re able to present different looks because you’ve got guys who are able to play on the outside.”
Sinkfield is embracing the chance to impact the game in a different way. He showed flashes of that ability as a freshman, catching four passes for 44 yards in five games.
“I’m only 188 pounds, so how many carries are they going to give me?” Sinkfield said. “I’m grateful for the ability to make plays in different ways.”
Sinkfield has practiced so much as a receiver that he has gained a greater appreciation for the position.
“Receivers are definitely in better shape,” he said. “They have to run so much, then you have to come back and do it again. And you have to block. They have a lot on their plate. I definitely understand and appreciate what they do on a daily basis.”
But even if he lines up in the slot more than he does in the backfield this season, Sinkfield won’t go so far as to call himself a receiver.
“I’m still a running back, definitely,” he said.
The backs won’t have to be in the slot to be involved in the passing game. Kennedy McKoy said there has been a lot more route-running out of the backfield.
“I’ve seen more in this offense that they want the running back to be more incorporated in the passing game,” McKoy said. “There’s a lot more route-running from the running backs in this offense. I think it suits me. I like to catch a ball, and I think I’ve got good hands.”
Last season West Virginia running backs combined for 25 receptions. It feels safe to presume that total will be matched by midseason.
“It’s hard to put a number on it, but you’ll definitely see a lot more catches this year from running backs,” McKoy said.