MORGANTOWN - Once upon a time, Ryan Clarke was a go-to guy.
As a redshirt freshman in 2009 and then the following year as a sophomore, the 6-foot, 230-pounder was West Virginia's answer to short-yardage and goal-line situations. He averaged 70 carries a year and scored 16 touchdowns.
Then Dana Holgorsen arrived with his high-powered offense. That Clarke's carries would decrease was a given. What actually happened, though, was far more than a decrease in carries.
Under the new coaching staff last season, Clarke never touched the football. Not once. Instead, he became the quintessential blocking back, basically a guard wearing a smaller jersey number.
Clarke's reaction? Well, he says all the politically correct things.
"That's up to the coaches,'' he says when asked if he thinks he'll ever touch the ball again.
"I miss it, but I'm just trying to do whatever I can for our team to be successful.''
And finally, this:
"At first it's hard to adjust,'' Clarke said. "But when you think about it, it's not about you. It's about the team. It's about us winning. That's all I really care about and if they needed me to block in order for us to win I was willing to accept it.''
Here's the thing, though: While Clarke is to be commended for his team-first attitude, there's also an individual element at play, too. After Clarke's first two seasons, when he was doing his best Mike Alstott impression and banging out the tough yards, he was a fairly hot commodity. A lot of those NFL draft sites that clog up the Internet had him listed in their way-too-early draft projections.
There's a place in the NFL for guys who are big and powerful and can punch the ball into the end zone or across a first-down line.
Another year of zero carries and everyone might forget about Ryan Clarke, if they haven't already.
Again, though, Clarke is diplomatic and team oriented when the subject comes up.