How many coaches can say they have three running backs in their meeting room with at least one career 200-yard rushing performance to their credit?
Well, West Virginia's Ja'Juan Seider is one of those guys and he’s pretty happy to have all of them.
“Even the guy we’ve got coming in from junior college, he was a pretty good in junior college and we’ve got a good freshman, too,” said Seider, in his first season in charge of the Mountaineer running backs. “It’s quality depth and like I tell the guys, this is going to be the most competitive fall camp you have ever gone through.”
The three 200-yard guys, of course, are Dustin Garrison
, Andrew Buie
and Houston transfer Charles Sims
, the JC transfer is Dreamius Smith
, and the freshman is talented newcomer Wendell Smallwood
All five have a lot of ability.
No, it’s not Adrian Peterson trying to beat out Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers and Emmitt Smith - and it remains to be seen if West Virginia even has a feature-type back this year, but the Mountaineers probably do have their deepest and most talented group of runners since at least 2007 when Stevie Slaton, Noel Devine and Owen Schmitt were in the same backfield.
“I can compare it to being in the NFL,” Seider explained. “Every day you are competing for a job, whether you are a rookie or a veteran somebody is getting a paycheck and somebody is going to get fired. What are you going to do? Are you going to sit back or are you going to fight? Go out there and make it a competitive fight and at the end of the day when we walk off the field we’re still brothers. I try to always emphasize that.”
Seider speaks from experience. He knows what it’s like to compete for a starting job and lose it to a better player.
“It happened here with me and Marc Bulger (both were competing for the starting quarterback job in 1997),” Seider said. “Somebody has to play and somebody has to be the backup and you can’t pout. You’ve got to be ready when your opportunity comes to be able to play, and that’s what I keep telling those guys.”
The running back coach said he is purposely tweaking the depth chart before each practice to see how the guys respond.
“If you don’t like where you are at then you better do something about it,” he said. “Right now there are some guys ahead of some guys that were here so what are you going to do about it? You fight, fight, fight and now you are starting to see how those guys go out and compete. Even if you don’t mean that is how the depth chart should be, it’s done to maybe motivate a guy and they start to pick up their game - especially now that we are in pads.”
Like the rest of the coaches, Seider said he is not yet ready to name is starter.
- Speaking of other offensive spots still up for grabs, wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway indicated that one of his guys is emerging as a potential go-to candidate, although he is reluctant to reveal who that player is right now.
“We need to find six to eight kids that can play at a high level and when I say at a high level it’s being able to function and do what they’re able to do,” Galloway said. “If that’s block then block. If that’s run intermediate routes then it’s run intermediate routes. If you are a vertical guy then you’re a vertical guy. We’re still in the process of putting the whole puzzle together.”
One of those puzzle pieces seems to be 6-foot-3-inch, 252-pound fullback Cody Clay
, who caught only two passes for 29 yards in 2012 as a freshman. But this fall, Clay is becoming West Virginia’s Mr. Versatility and his name seems to come up just about every time you talk to an offensive skill coach.
“We’re not asking him to run 50-yard routes down the field but he’s able to work the middle and work the flats,” explained Galloway. “He understands and competes at a high level.”
“We like Cody on the field,” added offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “That’s the bottom line. Cody is one of our more solid offensive players by far, and he does a lot of good things.”
The player with clearly the biggest upside in the passing game – and the guy who potentially could be in line to become the next breakout wide receiver for Dana Holgorsen is junior Kevin White
. The 6-foot-3-inch, 211-pounder has all of the physical tools to become a dominant college player.
“Kevin is playing well,” admitted the difficult-to-impress Galloway. “Is he that guy? I don’t know, but he’s practicing well. He’s doing what we’re asking him to do. For the most part, they’re all trying to do what we’re asking them to do. There are bumps in the road from three days ago practicing to today’s practice – stuff that you cover that has got to come from a point where, OK, I get it. Some of them are rep guys and some of them get it.”
“But physically, Kevin is what you look for,” he said. “He’s big, tall, strong, can run and will compete. The sky is the limit for him. He will be his own worst enemy if he doesn’t get it figured out.”
Like last year with Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, Galloway said West Virginia should have the entire field covered with its group of pass catchers.
“Which guys is it going to be? I don’t know,” Galloway said. “We have the guys that we feel can work the middle, play outside, run deep – we feel like we have those guys.”
- Up front, offensive line coach Ron Crook isn’t ready to name a starting five yet, but he did indicate on Saturday morning that redshirt freshman Tyler Orlosky
has been getting the majority of the work at center. Finding a reliable snapper might have been the coaching staff’s biggest offensive concern heading into this season – even higher on the list of concerns than locating replacements for quarterback Geno Smith and explosive wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, simply because no one handles the football more during a game than the center.
“I think Tyler has been working really well there,” said Crook. “He’s done a great job. He understands the offense and what it’s done is it’s given us some flexibility. Pat (Eger) has been playing a lot of different positions and has been improving at all of them and that’s going to help us. I don’t know if we’ve gone as far as saying we’ve decided on a starting five right now, but (Orlosky is) certainly the one that’s been in there the most.”
Crook also said it’s important to begin working with consistent unit groupings to make sure everyone is on the same page.
“You’ve got to trust the guy beside you and the only way you can trust someone is by being there with them time after time after time and know what each other is going to do,” he said. “We talk about how hard it is to get to that point where you fully trust them and how easy you can lose that trust.”
For Crook, the No. 1 thing on his mind when he arrives at the Milan Puskar Center each morning is how well his guys are pass protecting, particularly as much as Holgorsen’s offenses throw the football. He admitted that is still a work in progress.
“There are so many blitzes we’re going to see, there are so many different alignments that we’re going to see from defenses and just getting everyone on the same page, both from a mental standpoint with their technique and pass sets,” Crook said. “That is a concern everyday that we’re doing it.”Note: On Monday we will take a closer look at the Mountaineer defense