Dynamic running backs could see role change this season

WVU Football

Sinkfield, McKoy expect to line up occasionally in slot

When Alec Sinkfield played high school football in Delray Beach, Florida, he played on both sides of the ball and moved all over the field.

Up until his senior year, he primarily played wide receiver. He could shift back to that position this year as a redshirt sophomore at WVU. 

Head coach Neal Brown and running backs coach Chad Scott have indicated that both Sinkfield and senior Kennedy McKoy will be targeted out of the backfield in the passing game, and the players are even taking reps as slot receivers during fall camp.

Sinkfield made a dazzling catch during a competition drill during Monday’s practice, and he thinks this revised role will allow him to put his best attributes on display. 

“We all catch the ball pretty well,” said Sinkfield. “My catching is definitely something that sets me apart.”

While Sinkfield only appeared in five games last season and was limited by an ankle injury, this type of role isn’t new to McKoy, who caught 17 passes for 224 yards in 2018 — more than all of West Virginia’s other running backs combined. He said he wants to be utilized in that role again. 

“I think it suits me,” McKoy said. “I like to catch the ball, and I think I have good hands.”

McKoy refers West Virginia’s veteran running backs corps as the “heartbeat” of the offense, but in order to get those talented, experienced players on the field more often, Brown said the coaching staff wants to get creative with how those players line up. 

“Coming out of spring, we realized that we’ve got some talent at running back, and we’re gonna have to use them in a variety of ways, so we challenged, particularly, Sinkfield and McKoy to really work on some receiving skills, route running and those type of things during the summer,” Brown said. “I think they’re gonna help us in those spots.” 

Scott said he charged the two running backs with learning the route tree in the offseason so they’d be ready to contribute more in the passing game. 

“In Sinkfield and McKoy’s case, they’ve done a phenomenal job thus far of lining up out wide and actually running the routes. Not just running them, but they’re producing,” Scott said. “They’re recognizing the coverage and they’re doing a great job running the routes and making plays.”

As he continues to evaluate his position group, Scott said Sinkfield has been West Virginia’s most consistent running back during fall camp, and he wants to see the redshirt sophomore become more of a leader. 

“He’s not too young to lead. He encourages guys, they respect him,” Scott said. “He had a phenomenal spring ball, he had a phenomenal summer, and thus far through this camp, he’s been phenomenal right now. He can step up and lead. He can talk. He doesn’t talk as much, but he’s making plays.” 

His teammates have said more of the same. 

“He’s a real versatile guy. He’s real quick with his feet, good hips and has good ball skills, and can catch the ball good,” McKoy said. “Those are only things that are gonna help him get more touches and get on the field more.” 

Sophomore running back Leddie Brown thinks Sinkfield will contribute in another major way: scoring. 

 “Sink will be a big player,” Brown said. “He will score a lot of touchdowns this year.” 

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