Last season, WVU running back Leddie Brown averaged 23 touches per game and although he is able to handle the load, head coach Neal Brown is hoping to take some off of his plate this upcoming season.
On Saturday, Brown mentioned that redshirt sophomore Tony Mathis Jr. was a bright spot in the team's scrimmage and that those behind Leddie know that the majority of carries will go to Brown, but that they all have a chance to prove themselves as the 2nd best option.
"It's a definite backup position. The way we are attacking this is, we've got two guys that have 16 opportunities in the spring (Tony Mathis, A'varius Sparrow) they're competing and we've got two more guys that are coming that are going to be true freshmen in fall camp but are going to have the same opportunity. I think you've got to have at least three running backs prepared to play. We were fortunate last year with Leddie [Brown] but we need help running the football - he can't be the only guy that's carrying the load. We've got to be more productive out of the 2nd running back spot and like I said, Tony Mathis had a productive day and it's been like that this whole week. He's showing improvement and this football team needs him to keep coming."
Mathis is the presumed favorite to be RB2 based on experience. He's appeared in ten career games and has toted the ball 22 times for 59 yards and one touchdown. Mathis resembles the same physicality that Brown brings to the table while Sparrow is a more shifty, slippery back that can make defenders miss in the open field and use his speed to beat linebackers to the boundary.
For West Virginia to take that next step as a contender in the Big 12, they can't have a major dropoff when Brown is not in the game. Being able to throw out numerous backs will keep the defense on their toes and if they all produce in some capacity, it makes the Mountaineers' offense that much harder to prepare for throughout the week.
If anything, WVU won't be short on bodies at the position as Jaylen Anderson and Justin Johnson Jr. will arrive in the summer to help stabilize the depth.
Anderson (5'11" 205 lbs) has the look of an every-down back. He stays low to the ground and can make guys miss once he hits the second level of the defense. He doesn't hesitate when hitting gaps and provides a great burst of speed out of the backfield. What makes Anderson even more intriguing is that he is also a big threat in the passing game, not only out of the backfield but also has the ability to line up on the outside from time to time.
Johnson Jr. brings some versatility to the Mountaineers' running back room as not only a dynamic runner but a pass-catcher out of the backfield. He doesn't look like the biggest back in the world, but he's a tough, hard-nosed runner that is not easy to bring down. He sheds tackles fairly easily and runs with great balance. He's a home run waiting to happen with the way he hits the hole and can get separation from a defender quickly.
At minimum, Neal Brown is hoping that two of these four backups rise to the occasion and give the Mountaineer offense a much needed jolt behind their workhorse back.
You can follow us for future coverage by clicking "Follow" on the page's top righthand corner. Also, be sure to like us on Facebook & Twitter:
Facebook - @WVUonSI