MORGANTOWN - There are a whole bunch of things guaranteed to change in West Virginia's offense this fall, beginning with the obvious - the ball is likely to be in the air more than at any time in the school's 100-plus years of football.
And if that's the case, then the opposite can't help but hold true, as well. A team that has largely been defined for more than three decades by the way it runs the football is going to do that less.
The number of times West Virginia runs the football in 2011, though, may or may not be the most noticeable change. After all, this also figures to be an offense that simply runs more plays than ever before. A year ago at Oklahoma State, Dana Holgorsen's offense ran the football 450 times, which is not all that dramatically different than the 526 times that WVU ran it.
No, what could change is not how many times the ball is run, but who runs it. If it is someone like 5-foot-9, 182-pound Vernard Roberts or 5-10, 180-pound Trey Johnson, well, that will fit right in to what Mountaineer fans have grown accustomed.
But if it's 220-pound Shawne Alston or 232-pound Ryan Clarke, well, that will be a change.
Think about it. When was the last time West Virginia had a feature back who wasn't considered small?
Kay-Jay Harris maybe? Don't look now, but that was seven years ago. And that was one of the few times in the last three decades that the Mountaineers relied primarily on a back who by any measure would be considered big.
Yes, Roberts finished spring drills as the apparent frontrunner at tailback. And with guys like Johnson, Daquan Hargrett (5-6, 187) and incoming freshmen Dustin Garrison (5-8, 165) and Andrew Buie (5-9, 191) in the mix, there is a
good chance that the guy who winds up carrying the load will be another small back.
But Alston and Clarke are
Holgorsen has no preconceived notions of what a running back should look like.
"The only thing that would keep us from playing Shawne or a body type like Shawne is if he doesn't catch the ball, if he doesn't block and if he doesn't get yards when he runs,'' Holgorsen said. "Now whether he's 240 or we're talking about a guy that's 140, it's the same thing.''