WVU Running Backs Pack Unique Punch - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Running Backs Pack Unique Punch

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WVU running backs during fall camp drills. (PHOTO: Anjelica Trinone) WVU running backs during fall camp drills. (PHOTO: Anjelica Trinone)

MORGANTOWN – The running backs have been turning heads during fall camp in Morgantown, and it should come as no surprise as it’s arguably the position where the Mountaineers will have the biggest advantage this fall.

The 2016 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, Justin Crawford, leads the pack this season, but he isn’t expected to shoulder the load alone. Sophomores Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway also return after seeing success in their debut season. 

The three returners have all eclipsed 100-yards in their careers with WVU, and the newcomers, Tevin Bush and Alec Sinkfield, are capable of producing the same result.

The position does have strength in numbers. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said from his perspective, it is the most consistent group in terms of depth.

“Thanks for the pressure Coach Spavital,” Running backs coach Tony Dews joked when he heard that statement. “I’d say we do have some pretty good depth, and we are continuing to develop the other guys in the room to create more depth.”

Crawford finished third in the conference with 1,184 yards on 163 carries and four touchdowns in his first season in gold and blue. He tallied 100-yards in five games and amassed 331 yards in a losing effort against Oklahoma, which was the third-best single-game performance in WVU football history. The 2015 junior college player of the year averaged 91.1 yards per game and 7.3 yards per carry. He is the leading returner in the Big 12.
McKoy proved to be the real deal, seeing action in all 13 games, including two starts. He finished ranked No. 16 in the Big 12 with 46.4 rushing yards per game. Against Kansas, he ran for a career-best 127 yards. He finished with 472 yards on 73 carries and four touchdowns.

After injuries plagued Shell, Crawford and McKoy, Pettaway had his redshirt pulled and forced into action 11 games in. He ran for 181 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown in his debut at Iowa State. In his three games, he tallied 260 yards and one touchdown.

Playing for Landry-Walker High, the 3-star recruit out of Louisiana, Bush, finished with more than 2,500 all-purpose yards and 29 touchdowns.

Sinkfiled, the newest arrival and 3-star prospect from Florida, finished with 2,231 career-rushing yards, averaging 8.6 yards per carry and 26 touchdowns at American Heritage High.

“I believe all of them have the ability to hit a home run shot and make some big plays,” Spavital said.

The running back corps has the talent to pack a big punch this season, and what makes this group unique is the fact they all have a different way of delivering that punch.

“Tevin is very twitchy and quick. He can make one, two, three guys miss at one time. He’s quick, just extremely fast. Martell, I look at him like a mack truck, once he gets going he’s hard to stop. He will bring the boom every time,” Crawford said of his backfield mates. “Kennedy, he’s different than the others. He may not be the fastest or strongest, but he has the heart of a lion so every time he runs, he runs with passion and extreme effort.”

“Justin kind of reminds me of when we were kids, the one kid that just wanted to go out to the back yard, play football and have a good time. That’s how he is. A big ole kid having fun playing the game,” Dews added of Crawford.

Along with talent and athleticism, this group has versatility as an advantage, making it hard to pin point a game plan for the opposing defense.

“It’s a unique group because they all bring something different to the table, so I think it’s going to be pretty fun to get them all implemented into the game plan,” Spavital said.

There’s a good possibly we could see them lined up else where on the field in that game plan.

In 2016, Crawford had 14 catches for 68 yards and a touch down, McKoy reeled in nine catches for 64 yards and one TD, and Pettaway with 21 yards on 2 receptions.

Coach Spavital said he is excited to see how this group can contribute when needed at receiver, and McKoy is turning in to one the top receivers this season.

“You’re going to see a lot of good packages with him.”

“I do want to have a hybrid position and that role for our team. Play a little bit of running back, play a little bit of slot. Just trying to get on the field and help my team out in any way,” McKoy said.

Even with different skill sets, aside from the physical aspect, Coach Dews acknowledged everyone needs to work on the same goals: mentality, ball security, and recognizing/understand what the defense is trying to do.

Over the next few weeks, he is looking for constant progress and “small wins.”

“I’d like to see them correct the mistakes we made from the previous practices. Just getting a little better each day, doing something better than we did it yesterday. If we can do that as a position group over the course of the next for or 5 weeks, leading up to the (Virginia Tech) game, hopefully we will be in the right spot doing the right things at that time.”

Last season, the Mountaineers averaged 228.4 yards per game on the ground. With the different weapons in the offensive arsenal, and one of, if not the best, backfield in the Big 12, can West Virginia once again pound their way to double-digit wins? Time will certainly tell as they look to start working toward that goal in 27 days.

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