Football, WVU Sports

Holgorsen: Unsure of WVU’s lead running back

MORGANTOWN — There was a glimpse into the future of the WVU backfield during the Heart of Dallas Bowl, against Utah. There was no Justin Crawford, so the majority of the touches were given to Kennedy McKoy.

Crawford, who decided to skip the bowl game to prepare for a professional career, was the Mountaineers’ top back toward the end of 2016 and all of last season. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and finished his career with 2,227 yards and 11 touchdowns.

While carries were split, there was no doubt Crawford was the No. 1 guy.

With spring practice under way, head coach Dana Holgorsen isn’t sure there is a clear-cut favorite to get the majority of the carries.

“We need improvement — I don’t know if we are going to have a feature 1,000-yard guy,” he said. “That’ll work itself out. The three we have there right now with Kennedy, Martell (Pettaway) and [Alec Sinkfield]. Those guys look pretty good to me. It’s going to be fun to watch those guys compete.”

McKoy, a junior, seems like the obvious favorite to be the top back, with 106 more carries than Pettaway and Sinkfield combined. McKoy, however, is more of an all-around back and could swing out to receiver. He also played quarterback in the “wildcat” formation when the Mountaineers were trying to find a spark following Will Grier’s injury.

Pettaway is a between-the-tackles back who should see his role increase drastically in 2018. Typically the third option behind Crawford and McKoy, Pettaway, also a junior, has shown flashes of success, mainly at the end of his freshman campaign, in 2016. He had 181 yards in his first game, against Iowa State, after Holgorsen had to burn his redshirt 10 games in.

“We have a lot of kids who have played or who have been here, at least, across the board,” offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said. “Kennedy and Martell have had some really good touches across the board for the past couple of years.”

But Spavital is excited about Sinkfield, a 5-foot-9, 184-pound redshirt freshman who sat out last year. A native of Delray Beach, Fla., Sinkfield had the benefit of taking a season to soak it all in, which didn’t seem like the case early on. He dressed for the season-opener, against Virginia Tech, and early home games against East Carolina and Delaware State.

“Adding Sinkfield into the mix — which I am very fired up for that kid — you are going to see a great competition out of those guys, as well,” Spavital said. “Sinkfield had an opportunity last year that I thought he could play for us, but we were so loaded with running backs that it was in his best interest to redshirt, and now you are going to see him compete and try to get on the field.”

Unlike Sinkfield, Tevin Bush did not redshirt as a true freshman last year but played sparingly. Not considered one of the top returnees to compete for carries, Bush could move out of the backfield and out to wide receiver.

Limited by his size — listed at 5-5 and 168 pounds — Bush’s quickness may be better suited in space rather than out of the backfield.