- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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With a meeting room full of talented running backs set to battle for carries, West Virginia could have the deepest position group in the Big 12 this fall.
Running backs coach JaJuan Seider took some time to chat with ESPN.com about the depth at the position, the best player this spring and what he looks for on the recruiting trail:
What is the best thing about having so many talented guys?
JaJuan Seider: You have depth. You never worry about changing what you’re doing. Sometimes you end up changing everything you’re doing, whether it's certain plays or certain schemes. Having those guys, you don’t have to do anything.
Not only do you have depth, you have guys with different strengths. Do you consider that a staple of the group?
JS: Yes, especially since our offense is built for versatility and to take advantage of different strengths. And the way we change up our tempo and put some of them guys out wide without having to sub in receivers. It gives us a lot of flexibility in that aspect.
Could you see having some of those guys on the field together?
JS: Absolutely. We did it last year and it was great for us last year and it’s going to be great for us this year. We’d be crazy not to take advantage. They’re some of the best players on the team and we want those guys on the field as much as possible.
Were you happy with the group and the overall growth in the spring?
JS: Extremely. Because now, being with those guys for a year, they become “your guys” even the ones left over from the previous staff. Now they trust you [and] believe in what you’re doing so now you can push them the way you want them to be pushed. I challenge them to be physical, I challenge them to not just be a running back, but be a complete football player. And I thought they answered the call. We worked on protection, we worked on everything that makes them a complete back. I was impressed with them.
Have you been in a situation where you’re have so much competition at one position?
JS: Not to this extreme. When I was at Marshall, we had quite a few young guys but they hadn’t seen the field. We have a group where everyone in the room has 500 rushing yards in their career. That’s what makes the dynamic different, you have guys with reps under their belt.
Has that made it difficult?
JS: Not during spring. When you get close to games it will be difficult because a guy will probably feel like he should be playing when he’s not playing. Like I told my guys in the room, there’s one football. Somebody is going to be a star, somebody is going to be the No. 2 guy or even a couple guys may be a star, We’re going to play multiple guys. We may not have a guy with 1,600 or 1,700 yards but collectively we should have over 2,000 rushing yards.
It seems like with the additions and guys coming back one guy who has been overlooked is Wendell Smallwood. What do you like about him?
JS: He’s not overlooked at all, he probably was our MVP of spring. The media has been picking guys they want to talk about but he’s been our best player all spring with what he’s done at running back and playing receiver. Dreamius Smith had a great spring, Rushel Shell had a great spring and he’s not even comfortable yet. Once [Shell] gets the whole dynamics of the offense he’s going to be really good. But, by far, Wendell was our best player in spring football. He’s been our most consistent guy.
Is [Smallwood] your most versatile guy?
JS: Without question. Everything we did with Charles [Sims], we did with him last year. If you watch the end of the season, that kid really came on and it carried over into the spring and I’m sure it will carry over into the summer. The thing I like about him is he has a mindset, he doesn’t care about anyone else, all he wants to do is get better. I love his mindset.
Sounds like someone to build around.
JS: We have quite a few to build around. I always say it’s going to sort itself out. The time you worry is when you don’t have good depth and you’re scratching your head about how you’re going to get through a situation. When you have depth, it’s not a problem at all. Everyone would love to have this situation because those guys do get beat up running between the tackles.
This seems like a down time of year, but do you feel like this one of the most important times of the year in terms of building a program?
JS: This is where it starts. We’re on the road recruiting but you’re also getting better with the guys you’ve got and making sure they’re approaching the summer the way the need to in order to take the steps to move forward.
Do you remember a time when you were doing your due diligence on the road and you found a guy who wasn’t on your radar?
JS: It happens all the time in South Florida.
So it’s about finding which ones you like best?
JS: Yes. Finding the guys who fit your scheme. Everyone gets caught up in stars -- stars don’t mean crap, we want guys who fit our scheme, like football and love to work. That’s the type of guys we’re looking for.