Building Buzz For Sinkfield In WVU Backfield
In recent days ESPN.com has been making off-season additions to its preseason Top 25 college football poll to proclaim the most exciting player on each team and the most underrated.
The website’s choices for West Virginia in both areas was surprising.
Consider first the most exciting player on a team that is well stocked with such, the likes of which include quarterback Will Grier, wide receiver David Sills and linebacker David Sills, none of whom obviously are eligible to be the most underrated.
Yet Jake Trotter, the website’s Big 12 reporter, snared a player who has never played a down of college football as the Mountaineers’ most exciting player.
Alec Sinkfield, a sophomore out of Delray Beach, Fla., who redshirted last season.
Mark it down, for it is a name you may soon be quite familiar with.
West Virginia is up to its neck in running backs, one of its deepest positions, with Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway returning, and the Mountaineers also have a rather exciting breakaway threat in Devin Bush, who has to stretch to be 5-foot-5 and wear a lead belt to weight 165 pounds.
But Sinkfield is different — a kid whom they whispered about last year and whom even Dana Holgorsen, who tends to avoid speaking of players before they have begun their playing careers, would find a way to slip into discussions of his running backs.
Certainly, the Mountaineers did not mind cancelling the spring game this year to keep early opponents (Can you say Tennessee?) from sneaking in and seeing just what Sinkfield has to offer.
Still, around the time of the scheduled spring game, they were letting you understand that this was a kid to watch, one who would crack into the running rotation, if not take it over.
New running back coach Marquell Blackwell was asked in the spring for his impressions of Sinkfield and what he could do for the Mountaineers this year.
“Before you get to the field, you can see what type of kid he is,” he said. “He’s very coachable, it means something to him, he’s got a great deal of pride about himself but, obviously, he’s a good football player. He’ll be a name that you better look out for.”
When a position coach who has established players on hand starts talking about a kid being someone to look out for, all you can think of is Amos Zereoue, the all-time WVU great whom they spoke highly of a couple of decades ago and produced big time, running 60 yards against Pitt for a touchdown on his first collegiate carry and not stopping until after a solid NFL career.
“He’s instinctively good,” Blackwell said. “I tell him every day, ‘Protect the quarterback, protect the football, keep getting better but if you can’t play running back, then you won’t be out there that much.’ I don’t know how much of that you can teach, but he’s just got a great deal of instincts. He can change direction and speed pretty well.”
His high school highlights show a tough runner despite being just 5-9 ad 187 pounds, a runner who is capable of dragging tacklers for a couple of steps but also one who is difficult to face up and who knows where holes are and how to hit them.
Sinkfield, however, is best in space and Holgorsen’s offenses have a way of featuring players capable of operating there, getting them the football in a variety of ways.
And Sinkfield, on some recruiting services as he came out of high school, was listed a wide receiver. He can catch the ball on swing passes and screens and can get downfield, which is just another weapon for Will Grier to use.
It would not be a surprise to see Sinkfield rush to the top of the running back depth chart by game time but certainly he will offer another look to go with McKoy and Pettaway as WVU transitions from Jason Crawford as its No. 1 running back.
As for ESPN’s choice for the most underrated, they went with wide receiver Gary Jennings, which shows only one thing — they are not from around these parts.
One suspects if you asked Grier you wouldn’t get him named, considering that even with the presence of David Sills V and his uncanny ability to get into the end zone Jennings was his prime receiver.
He was Mr. Third Down and Mr. Reliable while leading the Big 12 in receptions — and remember this is the Big 12, a conference not averse to throwing the football around — while surpassing 1,000 receiving yards.
His 97 catches were fifth in school history and his 1,096 yards were sixth in school history, so we suspect that calling him underrated makes less sense than saying he was underutilized.
The thing is, with Grier missing a couple of games at the end of last season with his broken hand, Jennings surely would have surpassed 100 receptions and moved up much higher on the yards gained list.