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Kennedy McKoy

West Virginia running back Kennedy McKoy hopes to increase his contributions to the Mountaineer backfield this season.

MORGANTOWN – After WVU’s spring football drills, all the buzz centered on redshirt freshman running back Alec Sinkfield.

Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital called him “dynamic.” Said the back has speed, a physical nature and good ball skills. “He’s an all-around back,” said the O.C., “that’s pretty dynamic.”

Now, in the ongoing preseason camp, true freshman Leddie Brown’s name is hot. Quarterback Will Grier said the 211-pound Brown might be the team’s biggest back. (“I mean, he’s huge,” Grier said. “By the time he develops a little bit in the weight room, he’s going to be real, real big... I think Leddie is going to be north and south. He has a little pop to him.”)

Yet the season is nearing. And when defensive leader David Long was asked to name an eye-catching Mountaineer offensive player, he pointed to No. 4.

Not Sinkfield. Not Brown.

Returning junior Kennedy McKoy got the nod.

The North Carolina native smiled when told.

“I feel I’ve had a pretty decent camp so far,” McKoy said. “They talk about competing all the time and that’s what I’m trying to do — whether it’s with myself or my teammates. The competition in our room is something that’s helped me push myself.”

Indeed, in addition to the aforementioned backs, McKoy is still competing with his fellow junior Martell Pettaway.

In a comparison of those two, though, McKoy has been more effective. In 25 games over the last two seasons, he’s averaging 5.4 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns. In the same span, Pettaway is averaging 4.4 yards with three scores. Last season, McKoy averaged 4.8 yards a carry, while Pettaway was at 3.5. Both averages dipped from 2016.

Much of that, of course, has to do with the offensive line.

“I love how physical they are now,” McKoy said with a smile. “I feel like the whole mentality in that room has changed this year. You see them being more physical than they were.”

McKoy was especially high on the improvement of redshirt sophomore guard Josh Sills.

Add an improved offensive line to a unit with Grier and a standout receiving corps and the running backs’ prospects suddenly look much brighter.

“When you have players around you like David [Sills] and Gary [Jennings], Marcus [Simms] and T.J. [Simmons], all the receivers,” McKoy said. “All those guys can stretch the field vertically. And we have a great quarterback in Will. When he gets going it really opens things up for us.”

McKoy said he’s been fine-tuning his game.

“Just little things like my pre-snap reads, my during-the-play reads and knowing everybody else’s job on offense, not just my job,” McKoy said.

He’s been working on his ability to read and/or react.

“There are some situations, maybe like a blitz pickup situation, where you have to think, ‘Is this an extra guy or is this a guy a lineman is going to pick up?’” McKoy said. “You have to decide whether you can get into the route. There are times when you run up on a defender and decide to make a move or lower your shoulder. Things like that.”

He’s creating conversation with his work ethic. He’s creating conversation with his preseason camp.

Now we’ll see if he’s also creating a buzz for the 2018 WVU season.

Mitch Vingle can be reached at 304-348-4827 or Follow him on Twitter@MitchVingle.