MORGANTOWN - As it turns out, perhaps all the interest and debate over who might emerge as West Virginia's primary tailback and fullback this season is rather pointless.
Dana Holgorsen on Thursday said the real challenge isn't so much deciding who will play, but instead how much time each will see.
"They're all seven going to play,'' Holgorsen said of his four young tailbacks and three fullbacks. "I've never been anywhere where seven running backs are going to play. But there's going to be seven running backs play.
"It's our job to continue to narrow down at what point we put who in the game and how much we need them in there.''
To hear Holgorsen, it would seem that West Virginia is dealing from a position of strength in the offensive backfield. True freshmen Andrew Buie, Dustin Garrison and Vernard Roberts, along with sophomore Trey Johnson, are essentially in a coin-flip battle at tailback. At fullback it's juniors Ryan Clarke and Matt Lindamood and senior Ricky Kovatch.
"[Fullback is] a different battle, but it's fun to watch,'' Holgorsen said. "You've got three guys that are battling it out and the guy that's probably taken a slight lead at this point is Ryan Clarke, which is good to see.''
The tailback competition, though, is of far more interest to most fans. West Virginia's fullbacks will carry the football rarely, relegated almost exclusively to blocking duties. At tailback, the job of carrying the football could be one of committee regardless of who starts.
"Somebody's got to run out there first,'' Holgorsen said. "But whoever the starter is, it's going to mean more to that guy than it does to us. We know that they're all going to play. Throughout the course of the game - how it looks and how it feels - we'll decide who to put in there the most. We don't know how that's going to happen, how it's going to play out.
"[The eventual starter] can get all jacked up about being the starter and the media and the fans and [everyone else] can, but that has nothing to do with how much he's going to play.''
In what is expected to be a pass-first offense, of course, there is more to playing tailback than carrying the football. Holgorsen, though, said that pass blocking by the young tailbacks - none of whom weighs more than 185 pounds - is improving.
"Young kids, you always worry about that. And then young kids who aren't very big, you really worry about it,'' Holgorsen said. "But they've had lots of reps and lots of opportunities. They're all picking up their assignments and they're battling.