Dustin Garrison Continuing a Trend at WVU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Dustin Garrison Continuing a Trend at WVU

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Coming into this season, it was obvious that West Virginia was going to have to rely on freshmen to carry the ball.  Vernard Roberts, Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison all came into this season with hopes of becoming the starting running back under first year Head Coach Dana Holgorsen.  During Saturday's game against Bowling Green, they may have finally found their man.

Garrison, a lightly recruited tailback out of Pearland, TX, broke onto the national scene with 291 yards and two touchdowns against the Falcons.  He racked up 233 of those yards in the first half alone.  His 291 rushing yards in a single game ties Kerry Marbury for second best in school history.

Garrison earned the starting job against Bowling Green because of his impressive showing against one of the top defenses in the nation in LSU.  He displayed tough running and shiftiness against the Tigers, rushing for 46 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.  So far in 2011, he has 356 yards (7.9 yards per carry) and four touchdowns as well as 11 catches for 90 yards.

It's hard to believe a freshman could put up these kind of numbers in their first collegiate season, right?  Well this is nothing new for the Mountaineers the last 15 years.  Going back to the 1996 season, there have been three 1,000 yard freshman running backs at WVU. 

Amos Zereoue began the trend with a bang after a 69-yard touchdown run on his very first carry against Pitt during the 1996 season.  He would finish his freshman campaign with nine touchdowns and 1,035 yards, which is the 21st best season in WVU history.  He would finish his career after three seasons before declaring for the NFL Draft with 4,086 yards and 40 touchdowns.

After Zereoue left, a young freshman named Avon Cobourne had some big shoes to fill, but he was up for the challenge during the 1999 season.  He also burst onto the national scene early in his career when he finished his first season with 10 touchdowns and 1,138 yards, which is 14th best season in school history.

Cobourne would finish his career as the most prolific rusher in Mountaineer history.  He ran for 5,164 yards and 42 touchdowns in four seasons.  He has flourished in the Canadian Football League after testing the waters in the NFL.

In 2003 and 2004, two seniors led the way for West Virginia, Quincy Wilson and Kay-Jay Harris respectively.  In 2005, 5-star running back prospect Jason Gwaltney was expected to make a big impact his freshman season.  Things did not quite work out for Gwaltney, but another freshman would pick up the slack in a big way.

Steve Slaton came out of no where after he was finally given the chance to start during the fifth game of the season against Virginia Tech.  After only having three carries in the first four games of the season, Slaton finished his freshman season with 17 touchdowns (tied 3rd best season in school history) and 1,128 yards (16th best season in school history).  He ended his freshman season on a high note, breaking the Sugar Bowl record for rushing yards with 204 yards, adding three touchdowns along the way to earn the game MVP and give WVU their first BCS win.

Although he was not a running back, freshman quarterback Pat White ran for 952 yards and seven touchdowns the same season.  White would eventually become the all-time NCAA quarterback rushing leader with 4,480 yards.

Like Zereoue, Slaton only played three seasons at WVU before entering the NFL Draft. He finished his career with 50 rushing touchdowns (best in WVU history) and 3,923 yards.  He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft by the Houston Texans and was recently cut by them.  He was picked up by the Miami Dolphins last week.

During Slaton's final season at WVU in 2007, there was a freshman backup who came in with a ton of expectations.  Noel Devine came in and supplied some electrifying runs during his freshman year and also filled in for an injured Steve Slaton in the Fiesta Bowl, rushing for 108 yards in the game.  He finished that season with 627 yards (a stellar 8.6 yards per carry) and six touchdowns.

Devine played four seasons at West Virginia, finishing his career 4,135 yards and 29 touchdowns.  He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles but was cut a few days later.  He now plays for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League.

Now here we are in 2011, and Dustin Garrison is ready to keep the streak going.  Can he keep it up and become the fourth freshman running back to rush for 1,000 in 16 seasons?  That remains to be seen, but he is off to a very good start.

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