MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — WVU’s running back room did something that is now pretty rare in the transfer portal era — return all production from last season.
Redshirt junior Tony Mathis led the charge with 526 yards and five touchdowns.
CJ Donaldson was putting together a spectacular freshman campaign before suffering a season-ending injury. He rushed for 526 yards and eight touchdowns through seven games.
Junior Justin Johnson got a couple of starts under his belt last season due to injuries to both Mathis and Donaldson. He was the only running back who appeared in all 12 games. His final stats read 430 rushing yards and three scores.
Then there was the late surge by Jaylen Anderson. As a redshirt freshman, he saw action in six games, but he really showed what he was capable of in the season finale. He totaled 275 yards on the year, and 155 of them came at Oklahoma State, along with two touchdowns.
With those four returning and the addition of true freshman Jaheim White, WVU is poised to yet again have one of the deepest backfields in the Big 12 Conference.
Running backs coach Chad Scott was promoted to offensive coordinator before the start of the spring season. Mathis said that move was the main reason this group remained intact.
“With Coach Scott being the OC, he’s going to use everybody in the right way and get everybody their amount of touches,” he said.
Scott has already mentioned WVU plans to use two backs on the field at the same time this upcoming season.
Even though Mathis is the most veteran player of the group and has the most game experience, he isn’t worried about his number of carries. He said the other players aren’t either. They all understand the group’s versatility is its biggest advantage.
“A lot of schools have a lot of backs,” Mathis said. “You have to be more patient. You have to maneuver with it but I think it will work well, especially with the type of personality everybody has in the running back room. It’s going to be special.”
Mathis called the running backs the “tightest group,” but he did make sure to acknowledge the offensive line is right there with them in that category.
With Scott’s focus now spread across the offense, Mathis is honing in on providing that extra on-the-field leadership for the players behind him.
He said the group still has its one-on-one meeting with Coach Scott in the position room before they take the field, but he knows when Scott is overseeing different areas, it’s on him as the leader to take over that role.
“This is my fifth year, so I know a lot of the basics and the little things that I needed when I was a younger guy so that’s pretty much all I break down to Jaheim, Jaylen, CJ or Justin,” Mathis said. “I really know it all. Well, not know it all, but I know stuff they need to know coming up in the spring.”