It might feel weird to think that we could lose a back-to-back 1000-yard rusher and former Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year and be in a better place, but that might be exactly what we see happen this year. And it's not without precedent - you'll recall Wendell Smallwood leading the Big 12 in rushing in 2016 after Rushel Shell's graduation.
2018 West Virginia Mountaineer Running Backs
|4||Leddie Brown||5'-11"||211||Freshman||No Exp|
|33||T.J. Kpan||5'-8"||178||R-Freshman||Scout Team|
|34||Lorenzo Dorr||5'-9"||195||R-Sophomore||Scout Team|
|35||Brady Watson||5'-6"||213||R-Junior||Scout Team|
I spent most of last year not-so-quietly advocating for Kennedy McKoy to be the feature back over Justin Crawford, so it would be an understatement to say that I'm looking forward to him getting his chance to be the guy. Much like the aforementioned Shell-Smallwood situation, our offense just felt more dangerous to me with McKoy on the field - he's bigger, quicker through the hole, and more versatile, and in my opinion he's exactly the kind of guy who usually succeeds in our running game.
McKoy enters his junior year looking to build on a solid if unspectacular sophomore campaign that saw him rack up 596 yards and 7 touchdowns on 4.8 yards per carry in a backup role. Stylistically he's a decisive runner who gets downhill in a hurry, but he also has that natural body swerve that allows him to embarrass defenders in the open field. He's also an excellent receiver out of the backfield, and the additional bulk that he added during the offseason should allow him to be a very effective every-down back for us this year.
From the outside looking in, the primary backup (for now at least) appears to be 5'9 212 lb junior Martell Pettaway. Pettaway actually broke out two years ago as a true freshman with 181 yards against Iowa State, but will be looking to get back on track after averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and 11.5 yards per game as a sophomore. He's a powerful, one-cut-and-go type of back who compliments the rest of the group's finesse very nicely, and as such should expect to see the lion's share of the work down around the goalline.
5'9 187 lb Alec Sinkfield is an intriguing third option who, like the first two, brings his own complimentary skillset to the table. In Sinkfield's case, it's explosiveness. We fans unfortunately haven't gotten to see much of him to this point, what with him redshirting and the Spring Game being cancelled and all, but if the rumors out of camp are to be believed, he's the best bet to be our homerun hitter. And considering the impact that a guy like that can have on an offense (see: Simms, Marcus), that fact alone will probably be enough to get him on the field fairly often this year.
The X-factor of the group though might just be true freshman Leddie Brown. At 5'11 209 Brown is very much the prototypical modern running back - big enough to run effectively between the tackles, explosive enough to get to the second level, agile enough to make people miss in space, and versatile enough to make plays in the passing game. The cool thing for us this year is that while previously Brown might not have seen the field as a freshman unless pressed into action due to injury, the new redshirt rule means that he can play in up to four games this season without burning a year of eligibility. And based on what we know about Leddie from high school and the few things that have leaked out of camp, four games might be enough to convince coaches that his redshirt is worth burning. I’m not saying the guy's ready to be a star right now, but there’s an argument to be made that based on skill set alone, he’s already our most complete back.
Rounding out the group of guys likely to see playing time this year is sophomore Tevin Bush. At just 5'6, you'd expect Bush to be somewhat limited in what he can do offensively, but he was actually surprisingly effective with the few touches he got last year. He showed the ability to line up in the slot when asked to, and runs harder than his stature would lead you to believe, with his low center of gravity making it difficult to knock him off his feet. I'd imagine it would take a lot for him to ever be the feature back this year, but he definitely has a role to play in our offense.