The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

August 2, 2012

WVU faces many questions going into Big 12 play

(Continued)

MORGANTOWN — o o o o o o

Question No. 4: Will WVU have a healthy Dustin Garrison back, creating a strong enough running game to complement the aerial assault that is acknowledged as the best in the conference?

Answer: West Virginia did not really run the ball well last year. Part of it had to do with the offensive scheme, which leans toward the pass but has a history of producing 1,000-yard rushers, part because there wasn’t really an experienced running back.

The Mountaineers gained 1,936 rushing yards, 122 per game, but that’s distorted because they rushed for 360 of them against Bowling Green, Garrison gaining 291 in 32 carries.

Garrison, however, suffered a season-ending knee injury before the Orange Bowl and is fighting to make his way back now. Even though he says he’s on schedule, no one knows for sure.

But the key to the running game may be Shawne Alston, a big back who had a big game on the big stage of the Orange Bowl.

“He’s slimmed up a little bit,” Holgorsen said of him. “He’s going to be a fifth-year senior, and he probably has the loudest voice in our locker room as far as being heard, being respected. He likes to refer to himself as the boss.”

Andrew Buie is also in the mix and don’t forget the rock ’em, sock ’em game Ryan Clarke brings at fullback. Who knows? Holgorsen may even give him a carry this year.

o o o o o o

Question No. 5: What are the limits on what quarterback Geno Smith and wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey can reach this season?

Answer: There are no limits upon what the triumvirate of Smith, Austin and Bailey can do, especially as they move into a league that likes shootouts and gives up big numbers in the passing game.

Geno Smith’s performance in the Orange Bowl was unmatched in bowl history, records falling like raindrops in a summer thunderstorm.

And Austin pushed himself into the national conscience with his spectacular, four-TD performance.

All three of them are candidates for major honors, including the Heisman, but the modest Smith isn’t putting that on his list of goals for the season.

“Personal accomplishment is not the driving force,” Smith explained. “I don’t play the game of football for any type of personal accolades or special gifts or to be glorified for it. That’s not who I am,” he said. “I’m a very humble person and down to earth. If people get to know me, they find out when I’m off the football field I’m not out there boasting about anything.

“I took up this game because I love to play it and because of all the things that come along with it.”

No one, not even LSU, stopped WVU’s offense last year, and they were just scratching the surface of the scheme.

Now they know it, have a year under their belt, a stronger offensive line and additional depth at wide receiver with the addition of guys like tall Dante Campbell and elusive Jordan Thompson.

They are also driven to prove themselves.

“This is a new conference, and we’ve got some big things to prove,” Bailey noted. “People think because we are coming from the Big East, that the things we were able to do was sometimes a fluke. We are ready for every challenge coming our way.”

The question isn’t whether or not this group will shatter their own WVU records for passing, receiving and TDs, only by how much.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

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