New Coach Each Year? No Problem For WVU Veteran Kennedy McKoy
As most veterans, West Virginia running back Kennedy McKoy has seen a lot in his time in the Mountaineer program.
Coming out of North Davidson High School in North Carolina after a stellar high school career, the 6-foot, 208-pound ballcarrier avoided a redshirt as adroitly as he slipped tackles as a prep player, getting on the field in all 13 WVU contests in 2016 while starting two. He rushed for 472 yards and four scores in that initial campaign while many of his teammates were toiling on the practice squad.
Over the next two seasons, his yardage totals increased, rising to 802 in 2018, accompanied by eight touchdowns, with the only limiting factor being the presence of some very talented teammates who also deserved carries and playing time – and perhaps the battle of acclimating to a procession of a different coach each year at his position. That trend continues this year, as the fourth coach to head the running backs room in four years takes the podium.
“I understand the industry and the way things happen,” said McKoy, acknowledging one of the downsides of big-time college athletics, which includes much more player and coach movement than in the past. “But each coach has taught me something different. You have to learn that’s the business.”
Out of North Davidson, McKoy was first taught by JaJuan Seider, but when he was hired away ,the running backs room fell to Tony Dews in 2017. That one-year stint was followed by the hiring of Marquel Blackwell for the 2018 season, but the Dana Holgorsen abandon-ship ensured that McKoy would be one of a rare group – one which never had a carryover in position coach from one season to the next, as Chad Scott is now in charge of the running backs during his final year.
Given such a scenario, it’s not unexpected that the backs have developed, if not total self-reliance, a sense of getting things done on their own, and of leadership.
“Other than the offensive line, the running back room has the most experience,” said McKoy, who stands 21st on West Virginia’s all-time rushing list, and could easily move into the top 10 with a season matching his 2018 campaign. “We are seeing ourselves as the heartbeat of the offense. We are trying to get people going.”
The depth that McKoy helps create, along with Martell Pettaway, Alec Sinkfield and Leddie Brown, at the running back position has become almost cliche in analyzing West Virginia’s potential football fortunes this year, but there’s more to it than just noting there are four quality ballcarriers to call upon. In some situations, that might be a detriment, as players vie for alpha dog status and playing time. Again, though, the veteran experience seems to hold sway, as McKoy has more than once described an easy camaraderie which balances the competitive fire of successful athletes.
“We all take responsibility and we all know what we have to get done,” said McKoy, who has seen those battles play out both as a newcomer to the college game, and now as one entering his final year. “There’s not competition as to who the leader in the room is. We have all proven ourselves, and we all listen to each other.”
They’re listening to Scott too, a notorious early riser, ball of energy and constant teacher who isn’t letting his veterans coast or rest on their laurels. Without a great deal of difference in terms of scheme or system, he’s been prodding his charges to improve upon technique and execution, which have been a hallmark for head coach Neal Brown.
“There are a few minor differences, different names for plays or things like that,” said McKoy, who goes on to explain that spring practice did not allow for completion of the offensive installation. “We only got so far into the installation in the spring, so there is a lot more to learn with terminology and things like that. One thing Coach Scott is emphasizing is blitz pickups. He’s telling all of us we need to improve on our pre-snap reads and figuring out where the blitz is coming from so we can be in better position.”
With so many newcomers hitting the field for the first time in August for formal practices, the importance of that teaching process is magnified. McKoy and his mates will be good to go, but honing things with quarterbacks and the offensive line, not to mention breaking in a potential running back of the future, loom. They will be voices, along with a handful of veteran linemen and a receiver or two, who will have to help build an offense that will be searching for an identity. Again, McKoy falls back on the experience he’s gained during his time in gold and blue.
“We are putting in a lot of work this offseason, and I see a lot of good things coming,” he noted. “There were a lot of changes that went on around here. Everybody is taking it well. Summer has been a little different too, but all in all we are still getting the same work in. We’re running a lot and lifting a lot of heavy weight.”
McKoy has been doing the latter, both literally and figuratively, since he arrived on campus. As it was all new to him those few short years ago, he’s now hoping to define a fresh new era of Mountaineer football.