WVU stacked at running back as camp opens
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Tucked into a corner of Milan Puskar Stadium's south end zone during the first day of West Virginia football camp Thursday, the Mountaineers' running backs laughed and joked around.
In between reps during a drill in which a staffer swung heavy padded dummies at them as they tiptoed through a miniature obstacle course, the top five on the depth chart at what is perhaps the Mountaineers' deepest position slapped five with each other. They danced to music blaring over the stadium speakers and circled around footballs they'd spun on the ground.
The talented group of Charles Sims, Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison — among others — figures to have a spirited, season-long competition for touches.
And yet the running back who made the biggest news of the past week wasn't even there.
Former Pitt and Hopewell High School star Rushel Shell announced July 26 that he will transfer to WVU. Team officials have been mum, and coach Dana Holgorsen continued that stance Thursday evening.
“I can't talk about any recruits right now,” Holgorsen said. “I can confirm that we're recruiting him. That's all I can do with him. We're going to talk about the 102 guys that are on our roster right now.”
With a bevy of junior college transfers, incoming freshmen and some high-profile transfers, many of those faces were new ones.
Sims, who led Houston in rushing during each of his first three seasons, is among that group. Holgorsen termed the early returns on the former All-Conference USA pick as “all positive” but stopped short of declaring him the No. 1 running back.
Buie led the Mountaineers with 851 rushing yards as a sophomore last season, Garrison was the team leader in rushing in 2011, and Dreamius Smith is a highly regarded junior-college transfer.
Even with Shell ineligible until next fall (a team spokesman said he was not expected on campus until this fall's term begins Aug. 19), Holgorsen appreciates the depth at running back.
“We've been living on the edge here the last two years with not very many of them, so it's nice to look out there and see four or five guys who have the potential to all be starters,” Holgorsen said.
“It makes the competitiveness good, and if there's a lot of competitiveness within a room it's going to make everyone in the room better, and that's what I see right now.”
Notes: True freshman WR Shelton Gibson (knee) and redshirt freshman OL Adam Pankey (knee) were the only players who did not fully participate in the practice because of injury. ... S Isaac McDonald and LB Darrien Howard were working through NCAA clearinghouse issues, Holgorsen said. Junior LB d'Vante Henry, who had been present at summer workouts, was absent because of personal issues. ... Holgorsen named redshirt freshman Josh Lambert the team's kicker.
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.
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