Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a look at each position group and giving our way-too-early depth chart projections. Today, we take a peek at the running backs.
Starter - Leddie Brown
Leddie Brown finished 14th in the nation with 1,010 rushing yards in 2020 and that was just in ten games of action. With a full 12-game schedule, Brown could eclipse the 1,500-yard mark and potentially surpass it with ease. For West Virginia to be successful in 2021, the offense is going to have to run through Leddie Brown. Jarret Doege is not an elite quarterback so the running game becomes all the more important. I know the coaching staff wants to be cautious with the amount of workload he gets but I would still expect it to be around 25 touches per game. Anything lower will make it more difficult for the Mountaineers to sustain drives and punch the ball into the end zone.
Backup - Tony Mathis Jr.
No one really knows what the Mountaineers have in Tony Mathis Jr. He rushed the ball three times for just one yard in this year's Gold-Blue spring game but pleased running backs coach Chad Scott and the rest of the offensive staff throughout the course of spring ball. He has been in the program the longest aside from Leddie Brown which should give him a bit of an advantage. Mathis' running style is similar to Brown's but the physical part of his game is still evolving.
3rd string - A'varius Sparrow
If Neal Brown or offensive coordinator Gerad Parker are looking for a home run play in the running game, you can bet that they will turn and hand the ball off to A'varius Sparrow. He has top-end speed and is probably the most elusive back the Mountaineers have on the roster. Unlike Mathis, Sparrow had a strong showing during the spring game rushing for 50 yards and a score on eight carries. He could push to be the No. 2 back if he continues to hit for big gains.
4th string - Justin Johnson Jr./Jaylen Anderson
West Virginia brought in a very solid recruiting class and it is headlined by these two running backs. Both Justin Johnson Jr. and Jaylen Anderson have all the skills needed to be a feature back in the Big 12. Johnson Jr. has the perfect blend of speed and power while Anderson is more of a hammer in the backfield. Both should be a big part of the Mountaineers' offense in the future but their roles will likely be limited in 2021 due to Leddie Brown and two others returning with experience.
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