It was a trying offseason for every college football player due to the unique circumstances, but for West Virginia’s Alec Sinkfield, the hard times started two years before the pandemic had its impact.
Sinkfield made his first career start in the second game of the 2018 season against Youngstown State. He had five carries for 24 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game in the second quarter due to an ankle injury that would cause him to miss four games in his first year playing in Gold and Blue. His rushing output for the year totaled 68 yards.
The nagging injury also kept him from having a consistent impact in 2019. He played in all 12 games but was used extensively on special teams. He finished the year with just 41 rushing yards.
“It’s been a rollercoaster, honestly,” the redshirt junior running back said of his WVU career. “When I first got here, I had injuries to deal with followed by more injuries. Just finding myself and staying positive through all that was really tough, but I’m finally in a good place. This year should be the year for me.”
Sinkfield said going through that journey brought its dark days, but thanks to the support of his mom and dad, it also helped him see the light. His parents told him every day he had to keep pushing. Following that advice has led to his newfound appreciation for the game.
“Going through what I’ve been through, and now being healthy and able to play at my 100 percent best, I’m more appreciative,” he said. “I’m still as hungry as I was when I first got here. That’s something that has never changed.”
His drive may not have changed, but through three games this season, it’s apparent that a number of other factors have.
Strength and conditioning was an emphasis for Sinkfield in the offseason. By adding weight, he better prepared his body for what it would face during the upcoming season.
“It’s helped his confidence and also helped him stay healthy and be able to take contact then get up and play the next play,” running backs coach Chad Scott said. “Every time I see him, I say ‘Hey! 190 plus! Don’t you get down to 190!’”
It’s helped him withstand a pair of physical Big 12 Conference games so far this season, the most recent of which saw just six carries for 53 yards. Head coach Neal Brown said after reviewing the tape of the Baylor victory, one thing he wished he would have done differently is get Sinkfield more touches.
“He did a really nice job. That’s the disappointing thing that we weren’t able to get punt return started because I’d like to see what he can do if we get him started,” Brown said.
So, what is No. 20 capable of once he gets going?
“Big-time home run ability,” said Scott, his position coach. “Sinkfield, he is like a joystick. He has such tremendous speed and quickness in open space. What he brings to the table is the ability to make people miss and hit the big one.”
Leddie Brown, the starting running back for the Mountaineers answered that same question. He said Sinkfield possesses a different skill set than him and that’s what allows the one-two punch out of the WVU backfield.
“Sink, he is a little speedster, quick guy. I’m more power and pound you,” Brown said.
Sinkfield echoed that statement about his own game, describing it as patient and electric.
“I don’t think a lot of people expect me to run as hard as I do,” he said. “I think I’m a very tough runner.”
Ahead of the clash with Kansas, he has 187 yards and two scores. Strength and perseverance have been at the forefront of Sinkfield’s West Virginia career, and it’s the latter that will continue to fuel his resurgence.
“That’s the biggest message going forward — be better than last year,” Sinkfield said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily confidence, but the hunger and the attitude to prove people wrong.”