The pressure is on in Morgantown in 2014 for the West Virginia Mountaineers to get on track and finally become a competitive team in the Big 12 under head coach Dana Holgorsen. Many expect the offense to be vastly improved from their 2013 struggles and make a run back to the postseason this fall. But the team may have to do it without one of their projected starters following the arrest of running back Wendell Smallwood.
Smallwood was arrested on Monday and faces charges of witness intimidation stemming from a 2012 murder case. According to reports, Smallwood repeatedly attempted to convince a witness to recant statements implicating a friend who had been charged with first-degree murder and is awaiting trial. Smallwood was identified as an out-of-state fugitive since the incident took place in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, while he is attending school in Morgantown.
The Mountaineers were counting on Smallwood to step into the starting lineup in 2014 after a promising freshman season in which he played in every game, starting one. He rushed for 221 yards with a touchdown and caught 11 passes for 132 yards while also serving as the team’s primary kick returner. His versatility made him a perfect candidate to replace Charles Sims as the No. 1 running back this fall as the coaches were developing unique ways to get him the ball.
That position is now clearly in jeopardy as Smallwood deals with serious off-the-field issues. That opens up the door for Pitt Panthers transfer Rushel Shell and senior Dreamius Smith to step up and secure the starting spot but neither seemed to have captured the eye of the coaching staff like Smallwood did in spring practice. They will have to show that same versatility if the Mountaineers offense is going to run according to play in 2014.
As if there weren’t already enough adversity facing the West Virginia program in 2014, their offense now takes a major hit due to the arrest of Wendell Smallwood. Will the Mountaineers be able to overcome the potential loss of the versatile back and find success this season?