MORGANTOWN - West Virginia University may be without the services of its leading rusher from a year ago when it opens the 2012 football season Saturday at home against Marshall.
To make the matter even worse, the Mountaineers could face the possibility of playing the whole season without Dustin Garrison.
Garrison ran for 742 yards last year as a true freshman, including a 291-yard game against Bowling Green. But Garrison injured his knee during preparations for the Orange Bowl, forcing him to miss the game and all of spring practice.
Photo provided by WVU
Dustin Garrison’s freshman season ended just prior to the Orange Bowl. His sophomore season may have to wait a year.
''It depends on how he practices this week,'' WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. ''Dustin hasn't had many snaps over the last seven months, so we'll continue to evaluate him.''
Garrison was given a few days off from practice recently after being hampered by soreness.
''The plan has been all along to get him to game week, and then get him out there and see what happens,'' Holgorsen said. ''I haven't made that decision at this point.''
The 11th-ranked Mountaineers do have an extra week between games after playing host to Marshall. The team will not play again until Sept. 15 when it travels to the nation's capital to play James Madison, which gives Garrison a few extra days to get ready.
''If he's not ready to go this week, we'll reevaluate him next week,'' Holgorsen said.
Holgorsen said senior Shawne Alston will be the starter at running back, and sophomore Andrew Buie will also see time in the backfield. Ryan Clarke will handle the fullback duties. The coach said the duties of the running backs necessitate more than just having one or two guys play.
''I don't think Shawne Alston took a snap until Week 5 last year,'' Holgorsen said, recalling how Alston missed the 2011 spring practices because of injuries. ''Thirteen games is a long season for running backs when you're asking them to run block, pass block, run with the ball, catch the ball. Running back is probably the hardest position to play in college football. Those guys take a pounding because you are asking them to do so many things.''
Because of the scope of those duties, running backs are at a premium in the Mountaineers offensive scheme.
''There are a whole lot of things that position does,'' Holgorsen said, ''meaning we need a lot of bodies to get in there and do it. We have five or six there right now, and we're going to need all five of them, I can assure you.''
Kickoff for Saturday's season opener is slated for noon, and the game will be televised on the FX network.