Loaded Backfield

MORGANTOWN – Meeting new challenges is nothing new to West Virginia University junior running back Dustin Garrison.

So, when former-University of Houston rusher Charles Sims announced his attentions to make Morgantown his new home, the Texas-native simply embraced his newest teammate and the challenge he poised to Garrison’s return to the starting lineup for next fall.

“We’ve got competition coming in,” Garrison said. “Ever since my freshman year, all I have known is competition.

“My freshman year we had (Andrew) Buie and then there was Shawne (Alston) so, there is always going to be competition. With that kind of competition you are going to get the best from everybody.”

An APSE Class 5A first team all-state selection at Pearland High School (Pearland, Texas), Garrison made an immediate impact as a freshman, rushing for 742 yards and six touchdowns. However, a knee injury suffered prior to the Mountaineers’ 70-33 victory over Clemson in the Orange Bowl slowed the speedy running back down and resulted in his numbers dropping to 207 yards and two scores during WVU’s 7-6 campaign a year ago.

“I’m definitely back,” Garrison added. “I’m back to where I was before. Right now, my main concern is making plays for this team.”

And with the departure of seniors Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Alston as well as junior Stedman Bailey, someone who can consistently make plays could find themselves on the playing field a lot.

“Coach (Dana Holgorsen) is going to have the backs he wants out there. If somebody is hot, then he is probably going to keep them out there until he needs a replacement.”

Looking to be that player will be Garrison, Buie, who rushed for a team-high 851 yards and seven touchdowns on 179 attempts last season, junior college transfer Dreamius Smith and Sims.

“Right now, I just think we are all going to get our reps. It will also help us cut down on injuries. You really don’t want one back carrying the whole load. That will be a lot on one person.”

Making a loaded backfield even more important is the uncertainty the Mountaineers will have under center with the loss of Smith, who completed 369-of-518 attempts for 4,205 yards and 42 touchdowns.

Looking to take over the signal-calling duties will be either junior Paul Millard, red shirt freshman Ford Childress or former-Florida State University quarterback Clint Trickett.

Trickett, the son of former-WVU offensive line coach Rick Trickett, elected to call Morgantown home after graduating early from FSU where he where he played in eight games as the backup to senior E.J. Manuel.

“The key is making plays,” Garrison said. “If we make plays then we make it easier on them (the quarterbacks). And, if they (the quarterbacks) make plays, then it will make it easier for us.”

And, if enough of those players make plays, then those expecting the Mountaineers to struggle in 2013 might be the ones looking for reasons to explain why.