It’s finally here. It’s game week and the West Virginia Mountaineers have spent hours upon hours over the last seven months preparing for this coming Saturday. Over the next five days, BGS will present our readers with a “Head to Head” article each day sizing up the players who fill key roles and positions for both West Virginia and Georgia Southern.
First up, the running backs.
Wendell Smallwood – Junior; 5-11; 201 pounds; Wilmington, DE
Rushel Shell – Redshirt Junior; 5-10; 221 pounds; Hopewell, PA
Matt Breida – Junior; 5-10; 190 pounds; Brooksville, FL
L.A. Rambsy – Redshirt sophomore; 5-11; 210 pounds; Cincinnati, OH
It appears as though both West Virginia and Georgia Southern have ‘dynamic duos’ in the backfield. Wendell Smallwood and Rushel Shell for the Mountaineers and Matt Breida and L.A. Rambsy for the Eagles.
In 2014-15, Smallwood and Shell accounted for the first and second best rushers on the Mountaineer offense. Shell was ultimately the leading rusher with 176 carries for 788 yards and eight touchdowns. Smallwood wasn’t far behind with 148 carries for 722 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
According to Dana Holgorsen, Wendell Smallwood is one of the most versatile players on the field. The key difference between Smallwood and Shell is explosiveness. As for Shell, Holgorsen says he isn’t quite where he should be yet. Smallwood agreed, saying that Shell often “second-guesses himself”.
“This year, I think we just got me and Shell,” said Smallwood regarding the differences between this year and last year’s running back rotation. “We have a lot of backs that haven’t really gotten as many reps but I think they know the offense just as good. They’re stepping up and they’re doing the stuff right but most of the time, it’s just me and Shell and the rotation isn’t that bad or hard on us.”
As for the Georgia Southern Eagles, Brieda and Ramsey combined for a dangerous 2,176 yards between them last season scoring 29 total touchdowns. Per gseagles.com, Georgia Southern led the Sun Belt conference in rushing yards per game in 2014-15.
As a sophomore, Matt Breida led the Sun Belt Conference with 8.7 rushing yards per carry and had more 50+ yard touchdown runs than anyone else in the conference with seven. Rambsy accounted for 12 touchdowns last season as a redshirt freshman.
However, neither Breida nor Rambsy took active snaps during spring football, so some rust may be present.
“Both Matt and L.A. bring great experience and leadership to the table,” said Georgia Southern running backs coach Dale McGee. “Matt had a great season last year and has great speed. He can run inside the tackles or outside the tackles and he’s a big-play threat every time he touches the football. L.A. is a very solid running back who runs well in between the tackles and is very good in pass protection. They definitely bring two different styles; L.A. is more of a banger and Breida is that home run threat that you need.”
Wendell Smallwood also stated that he could definitely see redshirt freshman Donte Thomas-Williams in the Mountaineer backfield for special packages.
“He runs hard, he’s a bruiser and he gets north and south fast. He’s gonna carry a lot of people and take a lot of linebackers down so that’s what y’all can expect from him,” said Smallwood.
The Mountaineers will face the Georgia Southern Eagles in just five days on September 5 at Milan Puskar Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
GSU statistics and coaches quotes in this article originated from gseagles.com.