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How Much Will Tony Mathis’ Departure Impact Mountaineers?



WVU Football RB Tony Mathis
Photo credit to WVSN's Kelsie LeRose

While it’s difficult for any team to hold a roster intact these days until the ball actually kicks off to start a new season, Tony Mathis deciding to transfer out of WVU did come as somewhat of a surprise.

After continuously saying he was not worried about losing carries and was committed to staying at West Virginia all along, Mathis announced he is going to transfer. But now that it’s happened, there’s only one reaction that matters.

How much will Mathis changing his mind and closing off his career as a Mountaineer, impact WVU for this coming season?

Why WVU Will Not Miss Tony Mathis

For all of the issues surrounding WVU throughout Neal Brown’s tenure, the running back room hasn’t been one, and won’t be one moving forward either. Prior to Mathis’ exit, West Virginia was going to bring all but 13 yards from 2022’s great season on the ground. Subtracting 562 yards from that may seem like a lot, but doesn’t factor in CJ Donaldson missed games last year and WVU has a freshman in Jahiem White who has received praise since stepping foot in Morgantown.

Obviously, losing the most experienced running back and leader of the group is not a positive or what the Mountaineers planned, but it’s also understandable why Mathis would want out after taking some time to think about his options. Even though he would’ve still likely been at the top of the depth chart officially, maybe just out of respect to him, he was guaranteed to lose carries to Donaldson, especially if he can stay healthy and take his game to another level, Jaylen Anderson, who could be poised for a big season of his own, and even a dual-threat quarterback guiding the offense.

Asti: CJ Donaldson Taking a Jump is Key for West Virginia’s Offense in 2023

Sure, Brown and offensive coordinator Chad Scott may have found a way to use Mathis, but 2023 could’ve been a difficult season for him to showcase himself. At the end of the day, West Virginia has plenty of place to find rushing yards, which will be the focus of the offense, without Mathis.

Why WVU Could Still Miss Tony Mathis

Even though, WVU should be able to replace Mathis’ production, there is something they will miss about him that can’t be quantified. Mathis was the leader of a group of running backs that are extremely talented, but also inexperienced and young. Donaldson now has the most college experience of the group, and he had never played the position at all a year ago. It’s still about gaining more reps for Donaldson, Anderson, and certainly for White, or whoever else carries the ball at some point.

The departure of Mathis means the loss of another veteran leader for a team in search of new ones this year with Dante Stills, Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Sam James in the NFL. Mathis’ leadership could’ve been something whoever ends up as the starting quarterback between Garrett Greene or Nicco Marchiol could’ve even leaned on too.

Aside from just the leadership aspect of it, not having Mathis to rely on puts more pressure on Donaldson staying healthy. Last year when asked about giving his freak athlete more touches, Brown brought up that Donaldson needed to build a body more suited for a bigger workload. He looked great in the Spring, but no one will truly know how much he can handle until seeing him in a game.

WVU HC Neal Brown Knows CJ Donaldson Has ‘Big Time Ability’

Without Mathis, WVU will be forced to roll the dice on less experienced backs if Donaldson were to get hurt again and miss time. No matter how talented they might be, giving Mathis the bulk of the rushing attempts would’ve been more of a sure thing for a program that can’t afford taking many gambles.

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