Dews Keys In On Fun, Fundamentals Early In WVU’s Run Game Development
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – With the first two days of West Virginia’s fall practice in the books, running backs coach Tony Dews is striving to ensure his first year with the Mountaineers is a successful one.
The coming season marks the return of both Dews and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital to WVU, as both previously served stints with the program. Dews was as a graduate assistant from 1999-2001 before returning to Morgantown to mentor the wide receivers in 2007, while Spavital coached quarterbacks in the first two seasons under Dana Holgorsen. Now, it seems that West Virginia’s continued success in the running game – and its overall offensive evolution – depends on how the two work together.
“Thanks for the pressure, coach Spavital.” Dews said. “I would say we have some pretty good depth and we’re still continuing to try to develop the other guys in the room to create more depth. I think that’s been the thought coming into the season when you have three guys particularly that are coming back that’ve all played some significant reps in games up to this point.”
Justin Crawford leads the rushing offense after coming off a strong 2016 season as the winner of the Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year award along with being named to the All-Big 12 Second Team with 1,184 rushing yards with 7.3 yards per carry while scoring four touchdowns.
The junior college transfer was electric at times, and will finish 11th in school history in rushing yardage of he can merely duplicate his performance from last season. Should Crawford net 1,273 yards – or an average of 106.1 per game sans a bowl appearance – he would rank in the top 10 in WVU history in all-time rushing yardage despite playing just two seasons.
“That has been one of the most exciting things for me coming in new,” Dews said. “You come into a situation where you have a guy that has played a lot of football and has had some success playing football, both high school, junior college and then here last year. To be as humble as he has been and taking the coaching the way he has taken the coaching (is impressive.)”
“Obviously I’m different than coach (Ja’Juan) Seider, just like any coach that is different and likes to do things their own way. He’s been really open and very attentive to detail. I see him trying to do the things that we’re asking him to do. I’m excited; it’s fun to coach a kid like that. Justin reminds me of when we were kids and you just go out and play football in the backyard and just have a good time. That’s how he is. He’s just a big kid having fun, playing a game.”
The Mountaineers also maintain another key running back in sophomore Kennedy McKoy. The Lexington, N.C. native stockpiled 472 rushing yards with 6.5 yards per carry in scoring four touchdowns as a freshman, along with nine receptions for 64 yards and one touchdown. His versatility has already be lauded by Spavital and should continue be useful in this year’s offense.
“Kennedy is a really good athlete that has those skills to be able to play receiver,” Dews said. “Why have him on the sidelines next to us if he’s not the starter but can help contribute in another area? To his credit, he’s been totally selfless and looking forward to and embracing that role. It’s a good thing; he’s on the field playing. At the end of the day, that’s what all of them want. They want to be on the field playing, contributing to the team and helping however they can.”
Sophomore running back Martell Pettaway also returns to the team coming off a season where he put up 260 rushing yards with 5.3 yards per carry and one score in only three games. He, along with Crawford and Kennedy, are the nucleus of a deep core of running backs with varying talents.
“Obviously, they all do something differently,” Dews said. “They all do things very well. But as a group, I think the biggest thing is to continue to concentrate on the fundamental part of it – ball security being number one and making sure we’re taking care of the football and not giving someone an opportunity because we were careless.
“Continuing to work fundamentally is the big thing, and then as we go and start to get into schemes, to recognize and understand what the defense is trying to do to us from a front, as well as a coverage standpoint. Away from the physical things they do, the mental part of it is something we can all continue to work on and get better as a group.”