WVU's Garrison Motivated to Return to Old Form - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU's Garrison Motivated to Return to Old Form

Dustin Garrison is no stranger to a competitive backfield. It has defined his career at West Virginia University, whether it was his freshman season or now as he prepares to take the field as a redshirt junior.

The faces and the abilities may have changed since 2011, but Garrison has been a constant. He has been a back-up, a starter, a record-breaker, a frequent visitor to the training room, a spectator and now he returns to his role as a back-up with a clean bill of health.

To call it a roller coaster would be cliché, but it would also be accurate.

“I just have so much to prove, not only to these coaches, but to myself,” Garrison said this spring. “I just use that as motivation to run harder or block harder or catch passes and make sure I do everything to my best ability. All it comes down to is trying to be the best back on the field.”

What it comes down to, year after year, is that WVU has a number of quality backs vying for that title. As a freshman, Garrison beat out Andrew Buie and Vernard Roberts. A year ago, Charles Sims joined Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood as the top contenders.

In 2014, there is a whole host of rushers looking for playing time and only one football to split between them. Smith, Smallwood, Buie and Garrison return, plus the position adds the likes of Rushel Shell and incoming 4-star freshman Donte Thomas-Williams.

A crowded backfield is one thing, but this one is overflowing. To get the best athletes in any given formation, Dana Holgorsen has been looking at moving some of the running backs to the slot receiver position. He has also been deploying the trey formation, with two running backs and an h-back in the backfield, more often than not this spring.

“That’s one thing we’ve been working on a lot is that trey formation,” Garrison said. “Coach [JaJuan] Seider makes sure all the positions know every single position in that trey formation. I think that’s going to help us be successful as an offense.”

After all he has gone through since making the trek from Pearland, Texas to Morgantown, Garrison is grateful that he has his health and another opportunity. He does not dwell on what past successes vanished with his knee injury, but rather accepts what has transpired and uses it all as motivation.

This spring, the defense has been his punching bag as he strives to turn his 5-foot-8, 182-pound frame into menacing force.

Garrison has lined up against linebackers much bigger than himself in Oklahoma drills and he has gotten the better of them. In a time when competition is everything, the defenders he has plowed past have no choice but to be impressed by the physicality Garrison has brought to the position.

“I just see a different hunger in him, a desire,” WVU senior cornerback Ishmael Banks said of Garrison. “He keeps those legs moving every time on the first hit. He’s not going down on the first hit. I can respect that. He’s made a lot of plays here. I know he’s gone through some injuries, but he’s looking to change all of that fortune around and get back out there.”

For Garrison, it all comes with the territory. If he intends to turn heads in the fall, he has to do it first in the spring and the summer and through camp leading up to that Aug. 30 meeting with Alabama.

“I don’t let my size get in the way,” Garrison said. “I don’t let anybody or any backer or any sort of defense intimidate me. I think that’s what helps me play more physical is that I’m not worried about getting run over or anything like that. Instead of sitting back and absorbing the hit, I’m also initiating the hit.”

Second-year running backs coach JaJuan Seider has a pretty good problem on his hands when it comes to the pecking order that he puts on the field in 2014. His message throughout the spring has been to be like dogs and when there is meat on the bone, go get it.

He believes Garrison has taken on that challenge.

“I want to see if you can fight and one thing I can tell you about Dustin is he’s doing a great job of fighting,” Seider said. “He’s not worried about how many reps he gets, he’s making the most of them.”

Garrison understands what kind of battle it will be to make it out of camp as a starter, but he also understands that every player in the running backs room has each other’s back. When one makes a play, the others are right there to congratulate them.

As big as the fight is every day to emerge as the top back on the team, it pales in comparison to the fight they’ll face from opposing defenses in the fall.

“We’ve got some great talent back there. Every one of those guys in the room has the possibility of being a starter. To have that depth at a position like running back is incredible,” Garrison said, before turning his attention to the opener against Alabama. “I can’t wait to go against one of the top defenses in college football. It’s going to be exciting to go out there and play our ass off.”
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