Needed: One RB to start opener
Share with others:
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's opening game is less than two weeks away, but there is no starter at running back yet.
Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said Thursday the four-way competition is continuing and all four likely will play in the opener Sept. 4 against Marshall.
The competition is among true freshmen Andrew Buie (5 feet 9, 184 pounds), Dustin Garrison (5-8, 175), and Vernard Roberts (5-9, 184); and the veteran of the group, sophomore Trey Johnson (5-10, 183), who has had about 50 snaps of game experience.
"Those guys keep battling. [We're] not ready to name a starter. I know they'll all play," Holgorsen told reporters. "The four young kids are all practicing hard. We're continuing to evaluate them."
In addition, three fullbacks will play against the Thundering Herd, the coach said.
At fullback, redshirt junior Matt Lindamood (6-0, 236), senior Ricky Kovatch (6-1, 235) and redshirt junior Ryan Clarke (6-0, 228) are battling for time.
"All seven are going to play. I've never been anywhere [where] seven running backs will play," he said. "It's our job to continue to narrow down at what point we put who in the game and how long we keep them in there."
It's an unfamiliar situation in Morgantown, where former players such as Noel Devine and Steve Slaton, both All-Big East picks, were the clear go-to backs in recent years.
And it is a situation that likely will require some patience.
"Those kids are going to learn on the run. They're gonna grow up in front of our eyes," said running backs coach Robert Gillespie.
Gillespie, who coached the running backs at Oklahoma State alongside offensive coordinator Holgorsen, said each of the four runners brings something different to the table, and all play bigger than their size suggests.
"They're all tougher than their appearance," Gillespie said. "They can do what we ask."
Holgorsen said he and his staff won't place much stock on the importance of the starter, simply because all will play.
"Somebody's got to run out there first," he said. "Whoever the quote, unquote, starter is going to be will mean more to that guy than it will to us.
"We know they're all going to play throughout the course of the game. The specific person can get all jacked up about [being] the starter, [along with] media and fans, but [they have] no idea how much they're going to play."
As a group the pass-protecting skills are improving, but the speed of that development is a concern in a pass-heavy offense.
"Young kids, you worry about that, and young kids who aren't very big, you worry about that," he said. "As we go on with live stuff, we'll learn a lot more about them how they can do it."
NOTES -- Holgorsen added 20 players to the roster for depth this week, 10 as walk-ons when students arrived Monday and another 10 from a tryout session. "A few of them threw up," he said, joking. He also said they are not in pads and that he has few impressions of them yet. ... The team was down to one center at a scrimmage last weekend, but Holgorsen said the position is healthy again with backup John Bassler (stinger) back and starting left guard Jeff Braun as the emergency center.
First Published August 26, 2011 12:00 am