CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In some respects, George Washington may be getting too good for its own good.
At least in the eyes and minds of voters on the Kennedy Award, which goes to the state's top high school football player.
Draven Riffe, a senior running back and GW's offensive leader, ranks among the top rushers in West Virginia and is actually ahead of the pace of Ryan Switzer, the Patriots' two-time Kennedy Award winner, in either the 2011 or 2012 seasons (see chart).
Riffe has run for 1,158 yards and 15 touchdowns for the unbeaten Patriots (5-0), who are ranked No. 2 in Class AAA, and is well on his way to becoming GW's fourth straight 2,000-yard rusher, joining Felix Mollett (2010) and Switzer, a Division I recruit.
That's where the rub starts to come in.
Some voters around the state - members of the West Virginia Sports Writers Association - might get the feeling that Riffe is simply the latest product of "the system'' - that is, GW's proven ground game with assistant coach Jason Smith, who handles the offensive line.
You know, the same things folks used to say about Nitro quarterbacks and Morgantown running backs. Their numbers are inflated because of the program's emphasis on that phase of the game. Or maybe a few voters are even simply tired of voting for a GW running back, intent on giving the prestigious award to someone else.
Well, Riffe should at least merit consideration. Like Switzer, he's proven durable in his stint as lead back.
In his first five starts, Riffe's toted the ball 127 times - more than 25 per game. He lugged it 38 times against Ashland (Ohio) and 36 more against Princeton. Switzer never carried that many times in a game, reaching 30 only thrice in two years, with a career-high of 34 in the 2011 title game against Martinsburg.
Recently, Kennedy votes have a way of following GW running backs.
Switzer was a near-unanimous selection in 2011, earning all but two of the first-place votes submitted from around West Virginia. He was also almost a 2-to-1 favorite over runner-up Justin "Cookie'' Clinton of Martinsburg last year. In 2010, Mollett finished sixth in the balloting after not much preseason buildup.
As far as this year goes, Riffe's candidacy could face peaks and valleys.
One southern voter, for instance, felt like Riffe's chances are actually enhanced by comparing his numbers to Switzer's.
"I don't think that Switzer's success will hurt Riffe for consideration,'' the voter said. "Instead, I think it will help to illuminate what he's doing because there is the ability for side-by-side comparison to another Kennedy winner.''
However, that same writer - with no ties to any school that Riffe has attended - thinks his moving around "will not be looked on favorably'' by those doing the voting. Riffe competed as a sophomore at Scott before transferring to Van, where he didn't play because of injury.
"It does send the wrong message when a kid decides he wants to jump around at will to be in a better position,'' the voter said. "It begs the question: 'Do we really want individuals who put themselves before their team representing the state's top award?' It's something that goes through the minds of the voters, I would say.''