The learning is beginning to pay off. On a team now seemingly rich in running backs, Alston remains one of the most intriguing. No, he doesn't have the speed of Devine or Tavon Austin. Nor does he have the power of Clarke or the unique combination of power and speed in a miniscule frame possessed by 5-foot-6, 182-pound Daquan Hargrett.
But Alston is still exceptional in that he combines size and skills like no one else in WVU's corps of running backs. He is more bullish than Devine and Austin and shiftier than Clarke.
But there still remains the issue, at least in the short term, of how best to utilize the sophomore from Hampton, Va. He's not going to play in front of Devine, and Austin is obviously best suited to fill in for the senior tailback. And in short-yardage situations, Clarke has emerged as a force.
Again, in the short term, Alston's best chance to play might be as a power back, but he's open to anything.
"I want to work to be an every-down back,'' Alston said. "But if my earliest shot is going to be playing behind Ryan, then that's what I'll take. It's all about working to get better, no matter where I'm playing.''
Judging by what the coaches have asked him to do with his weight, they see Alston as a combo back rather than a traditional big back. By last winter Alston had bulked up to 225 pounds and now is back down to 218 at the urging of the coaches.
"I just lost a little bit of baby fat and all that stuff on the side,'' Alston said. "I don't know if they're going to have me building back up or what. They just told me to go down to 218 and so that's where I'm at. But I'm ready to do anything.''
In the spring game, Alston played with the Blue team (made up of starters and key reserves) and carried the ball eight times for 51 yards. He scored the first touchdown in the Blue's 38-0 win.
When fall comes, Devine will be the unquestioned No. 1 tailback and Clarke the big back. Where Alston fits in will be interesting to watch as it develops.
"I don't mind because I know eventually I'm going to get my shot,'' Alston said. "And if you get your shot you've just got to take advantage of the opportunity. Competition is non-negotiable. Every time you go out you've got to compete. If they outdo me once then I'll go on and try to do better in the next thing. You've got to earn your spot.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.