MORGANTOWN - Shawne Alston appears to have left little doubt about who West Virginia's No. 1 running back is after the camp portion of preseason drills.
"He's had a great camp and left the camp being the top guy," running backs coach Robert Gillespie said. "Our main focus now is just to continue to keep him healthy and focused to get him prepared for the first game."
Well, that may be the main focus as far as Alston is concerned, but as for the running back corps as a whole there are plenty of other issues. But perhaps at the top of the list is this one:
Is there a chance that Dustin Garrison could be redshirted and skip the season?
"He's a tough kid and we have to make sure he's being honest with us,'' Gillespie said. "He's shown a lot of toughness, but as a staff we have to sit down with the medical staff and see what's the best thing for him.''
The issue with Garrison is, of course, his surgically repaired knee. He suffered major damage in a non-contract drill just before the Orange Bowl, had major reconstructive surgery in January and by all indications has bounced back quickly.
But two primary questions have to be answered. First, is Garrison close to the level that allowed him to lead the team in rushing as a true freshman in 2011? And if he's not, would he be better served to sit out a few weeks or the entire season, the latter option preserving a season of eligibility?
"Is he strong enough to go in there and protect himself, first of all, and is he strong enough to go in there and help us win some games?'' Gillespie wondered aloud. "He did a really good job [during camp], but we'll sit down here in the next couple of days to make a final decision on that."
Part of the equation is where West Virginia stands from a depth standpoint if Garrison doesn't play this season. If Alston is clearly the starter, then sophomore Andrew Buie is just as clearly the No. 2 if Garrison is out of the mix. But the Mountaineers used four different tailbacks last season - the three returnees and departed Vernard Roberts - and are likely to need more than two this fall.
That's why on Saturday, instead of watching Alston and Buie and Garrison run, the coaches gave most of the practice reps to two freshmen from South Florida, Torry Clayton and D'Vontis Arnold.