WVU’s McKoy Primed For Stellar Senior Season
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Could it really have been the summer of 2016 when word first began filtering through the West Virginia football camp that the Mountaineers had a player coming in who had that special something you look for?
He was a running back from Lexington, North Carolina, known as “the barbecue capital of the world,” who had gone to North Davidson High, which this year proved it doesn’t only turn out football players as it produced the 2019 Miss America, Nia Franklin.
His name was Kennedy McKoy and he had authored a prep career that screamed out big time: 2,061 rushing yards with 27 touchdowns in a single season, 5,331 career rushing yards and a senior season that included 43 catches for 683 yards and seven touchdowns.
Dana Holgorsen had himself a good team, one that would win 10 games in 2016, and this was a freshman who could add something immediately.
He was tossed into the fire on a team that had a 1,000-yard rusher in Justin Crawford and a one-time prep phenom in Rushel Shell.
Yet somehow he played all 13 games, gained 472 yards with a big time average of 6.5 yards a carry. He had a 127-yard performance against Kansas and missed a second 100-yard game as a freshman by a yard when he put up 99 against Texas Tech.
His sophomore season saw WVU slide to 7-6 while he gained 596 rushing yards — second on the team — while scoring seven touchdowns.
Then last year, in a season dominated by the passing game and when the running back chores were shared by McKoy, Martell Pettaway and Leddie Brown, he became the leading rusher with 802 yards and eight touchdowns, also catching 17 passes for 224 yards.
One might say he has inched forward in his collegiate career, but that may change this year as new coach Neal Brown has fallen in love with what he has seen from McKoy through spring and summer drills.
“He’s gotten stronger over the past six or seven months,” Brown said in his camp closing press conference. “He gets vertical really well, gets his shoulders going north and south quickly. There’s a toughness about him I like.”
And then he added something that may give you look inside his head as to how he’s thinking this year.
“If McKoy stays healthy, he’s sitting on a big year. You can sense that,” Brown said.
This is what it all has been building toward, all that grooming to polish those high school skills and develop them for a big time senior season.
That almost certainly will be the No. 1 back in a backfield that is fast, powerful and athletic, one with Pettaway and Leddie Brown and Alec Sinkfield, all of whom will get a large amount of playing time, too.
It gives Brown the ability to run his offense much as a pitcher with four good pitches works a batter, taking advantage of what is working for him and picking on the weaknesses of the opponent.
The idea is to feature each back’s best qualities by using them situationally and, more importantly, by incorporating them into the passing game as well as the running game, something that wasn’t necessary last year with Gary Jennings Jr., David Sills V and Marcus Simms.
“I’ve seen in this offense that they want the running back to be more incorporated in the passing game,” McKoy observed. “There’s a lot more route-running from the running backs in this offense. I think it suits me. I like to catch a ball, and I think I’ve got good hands.”
How many will he and his backfield mates catch?
“It’s hard to put a number on it, but you’ll definitely see a lot more catches this year from running backs,” McKoy said.
One way this will be accomplished will be by using Sinkfield as a slot receiver on occasion, allowing there to be two of the backs on the field at one time.
But the centerpiece certainly seems to a mature McKoy, who understands his role.“I’m taking more of a leadership role this year. It’s kind of my job to get guys going, make sure we’re going fast and keeping guys focused,” he said.
“It’s a little bit of a different role for me because I’m more of a keep to myself guy, let my work do the talking … but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.”