The answer was short and succinct, “It better be” West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown said when asked if the running game would be better than the 128th rushing attack that the team featured last season. The question is will it be?
The Mountaineers are going to give the ball mainly to Leddie Brown, a true junior who has all of the physical skills but none of the statistics. As a freshman, Brown played in 11 games and finished with 446 yards and four touchdowns, but he “regressed” as a sophomore, seeing action in only 10 games and rushing for 367 yards and one touchdown.
Was it Brown’s fault the run game was so bad in 2019? Anyone with a brain and a set of eyes will tell you no. A running back can only do so much and when he is tackled or hit behind the line of scrimmage, no one is going to be successful. Still, fans are right to hold their breath in how the run game is going to be improved with an unproven junior taking the reins as the feature back.
The bigger question for Mountaineer fans has to be the offensive line, the one that allowed its running backs to be hit and redirected so much last season. The unit features several new faces and the coaches are still trying to find that right mix of starting five. That would be enough to give any fan pause but now you have to throw in the lack of practice time associated with the current state of college football and the COVID-19 pandemic. Its hard enough to create cohesion on the football field when all five players are health and go through camp together, but how do you create it when there is no camp?
Most likely, this Saturday will feature a better run game than what the Mountaineers showed in 2019, but only because Eastern Kentucky is not very good. They are JMU featuring players who could play FBS ball on the defensive line. For the fans and the coaches, the run game has to improve this season, because “it better be” better.