MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia running back Martell Pettaway was the latest to join the NCAA transfer portal, though this may be the first one that is surprising.
Pettaway played in the first two games of the season against James Madison and Missouri, but didn’t get a carry in the third game against N.C. State. Kennedy McKoy and Leddie Brown got the bulk of the snaps, and while Pettaway did play in the following two games against Kansas and Texas, he didn’t play again against Iowa State.
Following the game against the Cyclones, coach Neal Brown announced the plan was to use the four-game redshirt rule on Pettaway, ending his 2019 season, but meant he would be eligible in 2020.
Pettaway, a senior, was not having the year many hoped he would, averaging just 2.7 yards per carry (72 total yards) in the four games he did play in. With the depth at running back, Brown believed the Mountaineers could afford to sit Pettaway for the rest of the season, but ran the risk that he would graduate from WVU, move on and play immediately at another school.
With Pettaway’s entry into the transfer portal, that appears to be the case.
Pettaway had an up and down college career, beginning during his true freshman season in 2016. The coaching staff had every intent to redshirt Pettaway, but were forced to play him in the 10th game of the season because of injuries to the rest of the backfield, which burnt his redshirt. This was prior to the four-game redshirt rule, introduced in 2018.
In 32 career games, Pettaway rushed for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns.
If Pettaway decides to leave — he can remove himself from the portal and stay at WVU — it leaves a bleak backfield for the Mountaineers. The most experienced running back is Leddie Brown, who rushed for 367 yards and a touchdown as a sophomore this season.
Tony Mathis just completed his true freshman season, playing toward the end of the year, so he preserved his redshirt. Alec Sinkfield was relegated to more of a special teams role as a kick and punt returner, but out of necessity, he may get a major boost in carries.
The lack of depth at running back now leads into Wednesday’s early signing period — currently, West Virginia doesn’t have any running back commits. Brooklyn native and 4-star Lamy Constant decommitted last week after giving his pledge in November.
The Mountaineers aren’t expected to sign a running back this time around, but 3-star prospect La’Damian Webb and unrated back A’Varius Sparrow could visit in January, according to Rivals.com’s Keenan Cummings.