A Little Know-Howe: After Further Review, WVU Not Clear-Cut Top Running Back-Loaded Team in Big 12

By Brad Howe on August 05, 2017 from A Little Know-Howe via Connect-Bridgeport.com

The college football off season is a great time for debate. 
 
We know what happened last year. We like to think we know what's going to happen this year.  In reality though, at this time of year, it's all speculation. We're arguing hypotheticals, not facts. But, that's what makes it fun. 
 
Earlier this week on our radio show, the Citynet Statewide Sportsline we threw out a question.
 
The question was "does WVU have the best running back group in the Big 12 heading into the 2017 season?"
 
I was surprised it turned into a debate. I thought this was a no-brainer. There are question marks about this Mountaineer team heading into the season, but in my opinion, running backs are not one of those questions. As I dove into the numbers a little bit, there were a couple of schools that I found that could build a case as having the best group of backs returning in the league.
 
Let's take a quick look back before we look ahead.
 
Last season, WVU had the most running backs rush for a 100 or more yards in a single game. Four Mountaineers, Rushel Shell, Justin Crawford, Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway all eclipsed the century mark at least once during the 2016 season.
 
Baylor had four different players hit the 100 yard mark in game, but that included quarterback, Seth Russell. The same thing was true of Kansas State. Four players hit the mark, but one was quarterback, Jesse Ertz. 
 
Iowa State and Oklahoma State each had three players gain 100 or more yards rushing in a game. Iowa State's trio included quarterback, Joel Lanning. 
 
Heading into the 2017 season, WVU returns the most running backs who rushed for 100 or more yards in a game in 2016. Three of them return for WVU - Justin Crawford, Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway. 
 
Crawford, the leading returning rusher in the Big 12, ran for 100 or more yards in a game four times. He ran for more than 200 yards in a game twice and more than 300 yards in a game one time.
 
West Virginia leads the league with its three returning 100 yard per game rushers. Baylor returns two. So do Kansas State and Iowa State.
 
DISCLAIMER: K-State returns three PLAYERS who rushed for 100 or more yards in game last season, but only two running backs. Quarterback Jesse Ertz returns as well for the Wildcats.
 
Interestingly, Iowa State also returns three players who hit the 100 or more rushing yards in a game feat, but much like K-State and Oklahoma State, the Cyclones only return two running backs.  Joel Lanning returns, but is making the rare move from quarterback to linebacker this season for Iowa State.
 
Yes, you read that correctly. Lanning will be a linebacker for the Cyclones this fall.
 
Iowa State may be the team with the second best running back group in the league. Both Mike Warren and David Montgomery return for Iowa State.  Warren ran for nearly 1,400 yards in 2015 as a freshman, while Montgomery rushed for 563 yards (including 141 versus WVU) last season.
 
Iowa State and Baylor are the only teams in the league to return two running backs who each rushed for more than 500 yards during the 2016 season (Montgomery, 563; Warren, 559).
 
Baylor also may have an argument when it comes to the best running back group in the league. The Bears return Terrence Williams who rushed for 1,048 yards last season and JaMycal Hasty who ran for 623 yards in 2016. Baylor is the only team to return a 1,000 yard rusher and one other running back who topped 500 yards in 2016. *Kennedy McKoy was 28 yards short of giving WVU that distinction as well.
 
So, the way I see it ... as we sit here in early August, there are three contenders for best returning group of running backs in the Big 12. Baylor, Iowa State and WVU.
 
Is Martell Pettaway the tie breaker? The true freshman stepped in late in the 2016 season (against Iowa State) and rushed for 181 yards on 30 carries.He finished the season with 260 yards rushing on 49 carries. A 5.3 yards per carry average.
 
The Bears and Cyclones return two very productive backs. WVU returns three. 
 
What do you think? Is there any debate? 
 
Does WVU have the best group of running backs in the Big 12 heading into the 2017 season?
 
Leave us a comment or tweet me @BradHowe07 and let me know what you think.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo of Justin Crawford and second photo of Kennedy McKoy by Ben Queen of www.benqueenphotography.com, while Martell Pettaway, bottom, is from WVU Sports Communications.


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