2018 Position Preview: Running backs
As we near the 2018 season, senior quarterback Will Grier has become the face of West Virginia football, but he’s going to need some help if the Mountaineers plan on competing for a Big XII title. Last year, the fans voiced their displeasure with some of the of run play selections, as well as an overall lack of production on the ground. The Mountaineers finished fifth in the Big XII in rushing yards per game in 2017 and were 10th in time of possession (27 minutes per game).
Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital will need to improve in those two areas. After losing Justin Crawford to graduation, who will he turn to?
Starter- Kennedy McKoy (Jr.)
McKoy appears to have all but locked up the starting position as the team’s most experienced back heading into his third season. McKoy has appeared in 25 games and has started in 3. As a sophomore, he racked up 596 yards on 125 carries and tied Justin Crawford for the team lead in rushing touchdowns (7). McKoy will certainly see his workload increase as he becomes the “feature” back, but look for him to be a viable option in the pass game as well. He has a very similar skill set to that of Wendell Smallwood. McKoy was named to the preseason All-Big 12 Second Team by Athlon Sports and is rated as the No. 20 running back in the country according to Phil Steele.
Backups- Martell Pettaway (Jr.), Alec Sinkfield (RS Fr.)
Dana Holgorsen has demonstrated over several years now that he likes having a surplus of backs to help stabilize the run game. With the return of Martell Pettaway, West Virginia has a physical bruiser of a runner that can help in short yard situations. Sinkfield, who has received a lot of praise this off-season, will challenge McKoy and Pettaway for an increased role as the season progresses. Runningbacks coach Marquel Blackwell can back that up.
“Before you get to the field, you can see what type of kid he is,” Blackwell said. He’s very coachable. That means something to him, he’s got a great deal of pride about himself. But obviously, he’s a good football player. He’ll be a name you better look out for.”
Sinkwell should bring that home run ability out of the backfield as he can hit gaps quicker than anyone on the roster.
In the mix- Leddie Brown (Fr.)
It may be tough for the true freshman to see much playing time with three quality backs ahead of him, but do not be surprised if he finds his way onto the field. Brown has turned some heads during camp with his already college-ready frame. “He is a huge kid. If he stays in the weight room, he’s going to be real big in a couple years.” quarterback Will Grier said. He rushed for 899 yards while racking up 178 yards receiving and 11 total touchdowns as a senior at Neumann-Goretti high school in Philadelphia. Brown has all of the tools to eventually become the main guy for the Mountaineers, and it could happen sooner rather than later.