MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Dustin Garrison doesn't feel like a new man these days, and that's a good thing.
After all, there was really nothing wrong with the old Dustin Garrison, right?
He was the guy who as a true freshman in 2011 led West Virginia in rushing. He ran for 742 yards that season, which wasn't just the best performance among a group of five backs - Garrison, Andrew Buie, Shawn Alston, Vernard Roberts and Trey Johnson - who all began the season on fairly equal terms, it was more than the other four combined.
He was the guy who against Bowling Green ran for 233 yards. In the first half. By game's end he had 291, a number surpassed by only one other college football player that season.
The trouble is, he was also the guy who, about 10 minutes after the Mountaineers arrived in South Florida to begin practicing for an Orange Bowl date against Clemson, blew out his knee.
That was 15 months ago, almost to the day. Since then, Garrison has seldom thought about playing on a new knee.
He just yearns to be playing on the old one again.
"Just to be able to do the things I used to be able to do, that's what I've worked for,'' Garrison said. "I want to be able to go out there and not even think about the fact that my knee was hurt. I want to get to the point where it doesn't seem like anything ever happened.''
Finally, he's getting close.
Through the first two weeks of West Virginia's spring practices, Garrison seldom has even thought about the knee. He no longer wears the knee brace that he absolutely hated. He doesn't walk off the field after practice and think about the hours he's going to have to spend in treatment because he doesn't spend hours there anymore.
In other words it's completely different from the entire 2012 season, during which he tried to adopt that mindset but couldn't get his body to cooperate.
"That was the toughest part,'' Garrison said. "In my mind I was ready to get back out there, but my body still had a little catching up to do. That was tough for me.''
It wasn't that Garrison didn't try. He sat out only the first two games of the season, then played 10 straight before sitting out the Pinstripe Bowl. But he never carried the ball more than nine times in a game and never gained more than the 54 yards he got against Kansas State midway through the season.