MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Mountaineers have a big challenge for the 2022 season as they are tasked with replacing back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher Leddie Brown. Brown may have been the focal point of the offense last season but the running back room has the potential to pack a bunch again this season.

Here’s a closer look at West Virginia’s running backs for the upcoming season:

Tony Mathis – redshirt junior

Mathis, tabbed a “true competitor” by position coach Chad Scott had a solid end to the 2021 campaign. He’s the top returner in the backfield and the tailback with the most game experience at WVU.

Iowa State’s Isheem Young lays a big hit on WVU running back Tony Mathis in the Mountaineers’ upset over the 22nd-ranked Cyclones at Milan Puskar Stadium on Oct. 31, 2021. (Photo: Jamie Green)

He rushed for a career-high 118 yards on 22 carries in the regular-season finale at Kansas. When Brown opted out of the bowl game, Mathis got the nod. He finished with 56 yards and one score and led WVU with five catches for 24 yards.

In 11 games last season, his final stats read 72 carries for 312 yards with an average of 4.3 yards per rush.

Mathis faced a few setbacks in 2021 due to injuries, but it’s only made him even more hungry as the opportunity to hold the starting role is in reach. All spring, coaches and teammates said to expect Mathis to be the No. 1 guy.

Justin Johnson – sophomore

Johnson Jr. saw a limited number of carries as a freshman in 2021. His best outing in terms of stats was 42 yards on 10 carries against Long Island. He had a combined nine carries for the rest of the regular season. He added five rushes for 35 yards in the bowl game. His 7.0 yards per carry against Minnesota was a team-high.

“I think getting to play some at the end of last year was beneficial to him,” Coach Brown said of Johnson Jr. this spring.

Justin Johnson takes the handoff in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. (Photo: Ryan Decker))

Jaylen Anderson – redshirt freshman

Coach Brown described Anderson as a natural runner who looks “effortless out there.”

According to the coaching staff, Anderson’s goal ahead of the fall is to get his weight down. He is a versatile player who is expected to be used in several ways and at different positions, as he was in high school.

Anderson led all rushers in the Gold-Blue game with 41 yards.

Redshirt junior Owen Chafin and redshirt sophomore Markquan Rucker round out the RB room.

Departures: Leddie Brown

Over his four-year career, Brown left his mark on the program. He became the 12th plater in WVU history to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He ranks No. 6 all-time in career rushing yards (2,888) and rushes (620), checks in at seventh in rushing TDs (27) and ninth in total TDs.

He had 13 rushing touchdowns in 2021, which is good for No. 10 in a single season in Mountaineer football history.

Brown signed an undrafted free agent deal with the LA Chargers.

Completed roster reviews for 2022:

Editor’s note: On June 27, Gold and Blue Nation confirmed that running back Lyn-J Dixon entered the transfer portal. The original version of this roster review included mention of Dixon, but his name and biographical information have since been removed from the story.

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