The West Virginia running game looked strong heading into the 2019 season.
A running back-by-committee approach with Kennedy McKoy, Martell Pettaway, Leddie Brown and Alec Sinkfield had the potential to be very productive. Those four had combined for 1,929 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2018.
Not only was WVU’s running game nowhere near as productive as it had been just a season prior, but the Mountaineers were also one of the worst rushing teams in the entire nation in 2019. Those same four players gained just 803 yards combined in 2019 and scored only six touchdowns.
After the season Kennedy graduated and Pettaway transferred to Middle Tennessee State, paving the way for Brown to possibly become WVU’s featured back in 2020.
“(Leddie Brown) is a guy, for us to be one of the most improved teams in the country, he’s got to be a guy that is consistent for us,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said after the team’s scrimmage Saturday. “He was more patient today. He finished runs and made guys miss and broke tackles at the second and third levels, which has been a point of emphasis.”
A junior this season, Brown has never been WVU’s featured back before. He averaged 8.3 carries per game as a freshman and 10.7 last season, always sharing time with other running backs. So far through WVU’s training camp, it seems like Neal Brown has been liking Leddie Brown more and more.
“I’m kind of excited about him, and the week he’s had,” WVU’s head coach said yesterday. “I think it was an important week for him, and he’s been productive.”
While the workload may be tipped in his favor this year, Brown will not be in the backfield all alone. Redshirt-freshman Tony Mathis Jr. saw time in one game last season as an injury replacement. He carried the ball just four times for 14 yards, but he too has caught coach’s eye in camp.
“The more reps he gets the better he is,” Neal Brown said of Mathis. “He’s one of those running backs – and Leddie is a lot like this too – they get better with more carries. He’s doing a better job of keeping his shoulders square.”
Neal Brown has said in the past that WVU’s improvement for 2020 hangs on how much better they can run the ball. That may very well come down to the play of Leddie Brown and Mathis.