MARTINSBURG — With most of West Virginia’s experience and depth at the running back position, the Mountaineers look for the core to carry much of the offensive load this upcoming season.
During fall camp interviews, the running back corps discussed a portion of the new offensive game plan that gets them more involved with catching the ball — something they have been working on this offseason.
“In this offense they want the running back to me more incorporated in the passing game so more free release routes and routes to pull guys in the progression of the reads,” senior Kennedy McKoy said. “I think there is a lot more route running for the running back in this offense. I think it suits me. I like to catch the ball, and I think I have the hands.”
McKoy added it is exciting that the coaches are finding more ways to get two running backs on the field with the depth at the position.
“It is definitely exciting. In that room we all like to think we are the heartbeat of the team, we all like to think we are the strongest unit so the more of us on the field the better,” McKoy said.
Senior Martell Pettaway also emphasized the element of catching the ball to get the running backs more involved.
“We do that on a daily basis, we probably catch about 20 balls a day throughout practice,” Pettaway said. “…The offense now, he has put a lot of stuff in tailored to our depth in the running back room so I think we will have a lot of running this year.”
Sophomore Leddie Brown added he enjoys the running backs being used more in the running game.
“It just shows our versatility,” Brown said. “In my sophomore year (of high school) I played a lot in the slot. … It is something that has always been there I just haven’t showed it in college yet. I showed it a little bit last year at the Kansas game.”
Catching the ball as a running back is no strange concept to redshirt-sophomore Alec Sinkfield. In high school, he had 1,046 career yards receiving and five touchdowns.
Despite only playing in five games last season, head coach Neal Brown and co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Chad Scott, Sinkfield is one fans should expect to see a lot from. After the first padded practice, Brown said Sinkfield played best of all the backs.
“Alec Sinkfield has been pretty consistent throughout this whole camp. He is one of the guys who is a bright spot for us — he makes some plays,” Scott said in an interview posted by wvusports. “He is not too young to lead. He can encourage guys, they respect him. He has a phenomenal work ethic, had a phenomenal spring ball and had a phenomenal summer … He is making plays so he needs to step up and lead.”
And his teammates have noticed it too.
“Sink is making a big impact in the offense this year,” Leddie Brown said. “Sink is going to score a lot of touchdowns this year.”
Another talking point this summer for the running back corps — Pettaway, Brown and McKoy said — has been getting better at making guys miss in the open field.
“That is something that coach Scott makes a big emphasis on like all our drills are made toward that,” Pettaway said. That was one of my goals this summer.”
With a smile, Brown said if one watches practice, they would see coach Chad Scott run up and make them go back if they do not finish a run.
“It is making me a better back. That is what they want to see at the next level, a back that can run through people and make people miss so I am trying to balance that out,” Brown said. “Honestly, I watch Kennedy make guys miss and I try to do what he do, I just learn from the other backs. coach Scott always tells me ‘keep your head up. If you can make that extra move make that extra move.'”
McKoy said the running back group showed flashes of this ability last season.
“That is definitely one of coach Scott’s goals. When he came in here he talked to all of us and he thought that we needed to be more dynamic and make people miss on a more consistent basis,” McKoy said. “All of us have had flashes, it is all on film of making people miss, we just need to get there on a more consistent basis.”
Other backs on the roster are Lorenzo Dorr, T.J. Kpan and Tony Mathis.
BGS photos by Kelsie LeRose