WVU tailback Tony Mathis Jr. announces intention to transfer

West Virginia carried four running backs with proven success on its roster throughout spring football among the team’s five scholarship tailbacks.

Both of those figures have since decreased by one.

On a message posted to his Instagram account, running back Tony Mathis Jr. announced Monday he will enter the NCAA Transfer Portal as a graduate transfer with two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Over 10 appearances in 2022, Mathis led the Mountaineers with 562 rushing yards and 135 attempts. He scored five touchdowns and surpassed 100 yards in victories over Towson and Baylor, the latter of which Mathis rushed for a career-high 163 yards and two scores against on 23 carries to earn Big 12 Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Week.

Following the victory over Baylor, Mathis had only seven carries over the next three games, two of which he missed with an elbow injury.

Tailback Tony Mathis Jr. hauls in a pass. Photo by Teran Malone

Over the final three games of 2022, Mathis carried 36 times for only 70 yards and did not score. That came during a stretch when WVU was without then-true freshman CJ Donaldson, who emerged as a featured option in the backfield over the first seven games of his career before being sidelined with a season-ending injury.

Donaldson, who rushed for 526 yards and eight TDs on 87 carries in 2022, has since recovered from the injury quicker than expected and was a full participant throughout spring football.

WVU also has junior Justin Johnson Jr. and redshirt sophomore Jaylen Anderson returning after both took a big step forward a year ago in their second season of college football.

Johnson rushed for 430 yards and three scores on 98 attempts, while Anderson had 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 35 carries. Anderson finished the season as the team’s featured back, rushing 15 times for 155 yards and both scores in a victory at Oklahoma State.

True freshman tailback Jahiem White enrolled early and made a strong impression throughout the spring, including a game-high 91 rushing yards on seven carries with a 53-yard touchdown scamper in the annual Gold-Blue Game.

True freshman DJ Oliver could also factor into the mix in the backfield when he arrives in Morgantown over the summer.

Mathis, a native of Orlando, starred at Cedartown High School in Georgia. He was named Class 5A Offensive Player of the Year in 2018 after rushing for 1,042 yards and 23 touchdowns. 

Mathis used the 2019 season, his first at WVU, to redshirt. That also marked head coach Neal Brown’s first season in Morgantown.

Mathis played sparingly over five games in 2020, rushing 18 times for 55 yards and one touchdown against Eastern Kentucky during a season that Leddie Brown was the team’s featured ball carrier.

Brown filled that role again in 2021, though Mathis’ role grew, and he rushed 72 times for 312 yards, including a 118-yard effort in a victory at Kansas, which marked the first of Mathis’ three 100-yard efforts as a Mountaineer.

While the spring window to enter the portal closed Sunday, Mathis, as a graduate transfer, is permitted to enter the portal any time.

Mathis was named one of four WVU players named an Iron Mountaineer at the 2023 spring game for his dedication and accomplishments during the team’s offseason strength and conditioning program. It was the second such occasion that Mathis earned the distinction, having also been named an Iron Mountaineer in 2021.

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