Junior running back Dustin Garrison
reached a high point in his career on a rainy, cold October Saturday afternoon two years ago against Bowling Green.
On that miserable day at Milan Puskar Stadium, Garrison led the Mountaineers to a 55-10 win with a 291-yard rushing, two touchdown performance. It was the good enough for the second-best single game rushing total in 2011.
At season’s end, after gaining 742 yards, averaging 5.5 yards per attempt, and six touchdowns, the Pearland, Texas resident was named the ECAC Offensive Rookie of the Year.
But then it all came crashing down. He suffered a knee injury during a non-contact drill in a practice leading up to the Orange Bowl and had to start on his road to recovery.
Last year, still working his knee back from the 2011 injury, he appeared in 10 games but rushed for just 207 yards and two touchdowns.
“I’m happy where I’m at right now,” Garrison said. “Last fall was tough for me bouncing back from surgery. Right now I feel 100 percent. I’m back. I’m back at it and comfortable with my body.”
This year, though, is different from the previous two seasons. He’s now in one of the deeper backfields in the Big 12 Conference with returner Andrew Buie
and newcomers Charles Sims
and Dreamius Smith
“It’s fun. Right now we’re still getting equal reps,” Garrison said. “We’re just trying to make the most of it. It’s fun to compete with each other. It’s great to have (a lot of talent in the room.)”
Garrison said even though it’s a crowded backfield with those four, as well as freshman Wendell Smallwood
also possibly getting into the mix, the different backs bring different skill sets to the table. Sims has the experience of being an every down back at Houston, Buie is quick and can make defender look silly, and Smith is a downhill runner.
The junior said he could also see coach Dana Holgorsen using different backs dependent on the week to game plan around certain types of defenses.
“It’s always something different in the room. It’s only going to keep the defense on their toes,” Garrison said. “So if (Holgorsen) needs a running back to go to receiver and catches passes, then we’ll do it.”
Catching passes out of the backfield is something that Garrison said they have been working on during fall camp.
“I did it a lot in high school,” he explained. “I did it a couple times in the past two years here. I’m very comfortable with it. I really enjoy doing it.”
Another adjustment the backs have to deal with is the offensive line. A lot has been made this offseason about the young offensive line adjusting to new coach Ron Crook and new schemes, however, Garrison explained that it also affects running backs in a critical way.
“(Crook) has been working with the linemen trying to get them to understand the better way to block. With that comes responsibility as a running back to understand what they’re doing and learn where the holes are,” Garrison said.
“We look at the linemen to see what they see and see what they’re picking up when it comes to blitzes. We have to understand what they’re doing,” he concluded.