By Kyle Lovern
MORGANTOWN – WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen talked about the depth he has in the backfield for the upcoming season at his press conference on Monday.
WVU has several returning back and Pitt transfer Rushel Shell, who has been looking good in practice. Shell was a 4-star recruit when he came out of high school. He sat out last season due to the transfer.
“Redshirt sophomore running back Rushel Shell looks great. He had two or three runs where you can see why the hype is there. He’s getting much more comfortable and his ball security is good. He runs people over,” Holgorsen said. “He may have the best ball skills. He has tremendous hands. He runs angry. He can surprise you in the open field. I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve seen out of him,” he said of Shell.
Holgorsen also talked about some of the other running back battling for playing time and carries.
“Wendell (Smallwood) is the most versatile guy we have, and he continues to break runs and get good short yardage,” he said. “His receiving skills have improved. He looks good. Dustin Garrison (redshirt junior running back) has had a solid camp. Andrew Buie (redshirt junior running back) has been a little bit banged up. He’s a physical guy and always has been. He always puts his body in harm’s way. We expect him to get back out there this afternoon.”
Holgorsen also commented on senior running back Dreamius Smith.
“We have to get him going. There are a lot of bodies at his position, so we’re going to put him in a situation this afternoon and see if he can carry the load,” Holgorsen said. “He’s coming from a knee scope about a month ago. We did this on purpose and fed the other guys the ball early so that he could get his legs underneath him. This afternoon is a big day for him.”
As for the fullback position, Spring Valley High School’s Elijah Wellman, a redshirt freshman, can also play tailback.
“We were working on some short yardage stuff, so we put Eli, Cody Clay, and Garrett Hope back there,” Holgorsen said. “Eli looked really good. He’s not just a meathead tight end that doesn’t have skills. Cody and Garrett have developed their receiving skills. I can’t say that about Eli at this point, but they have really improved. I think they can both be viable options to take the ball down field. Eli is a more skilled back. We want to hand it to him so he can go and score pretty quick.”
On comparing Elijah Wellman to former WVU fullback Owen Schmitt, Holgorsen said, “Eli is that kind of guy. Owen had tremendous ball skills, and he was pretty talented, but Eli runs like that. He’s a big, tough kid. Owen had a great career so I can’t compare anybody to him, but Eli is tough and is cut from the same kind of mold. I hope he turns out like Owen. That would be awesome.”
On stacking WVU’s depth charts, Holgorsen said, “It typically works itself out. We have to have information. We have to see good and bad plays and see who is picking it up and who is not. We get to see a lot of reps and spend a lot of time with them. We’re not restricted on that. It tends to sort itself out. Calling them in and telling them is a different story. Developing them isn’t hard, but telling them sometimes is.”
WVU should have enough depth in the backfield this season if a player gets banged up.
They have a variety of different kinds of running backs that should help regardless of the situation.