During an open scrimmage Saturday at Laidley Field, West Virginia running back Dustin Garrison played like the same runner he once was.
He carried the ball, shrugged off defenders, caught passes out the backfield and even scored two touchdowns against the first team defense.
Garrison scored from eight yards out and then from nine yards away a few series later, completely stealing the show.
“I thought Garrison had a really good scrimmage. I mean, he showed up. He was a guy that stuck out today,” said WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson.
Garrison, the starting running back during the 2011 season, was an asset for WVU. He even rushed for 291 yards in a game against Bowling Green, which still sits as the third-highest single-game rushing total in WVU history.
Unfortunately for Garrison, injury struck hard. He tore his ACL preparing for the Orange Bowl. Then, after working back to play in a limited role throughout the 2012 season, the 2013 season was lost to a pulled hamstring.
After a conversation with head coach Dana Holgorsen, Garrison elected to take a medical redshirt in order to get healthy for this spring.
“I feel like I did my freshman year with my knee and my hamstring. Those injuries nicked me up,” he said. “Right now, I have no complaints. My body is feeling good, and I have a lot to play for.”
In the three months prior to spring practice, Garrison worked tirelessly on injury prevention.
“I was always in the training room this offseason. I did a lot of stretching, more of that stuff. Now I have more flexibility,” Garrison said.
The former Pearland High School star can even physically matchup with linebackers. Before the scrimmage Saturday during an Oklahoma Drill, he got the better of standout linebacker Brandon Golson, and Garrison did the same to 6-foot-3 linebacker Edward Muldrow last week.
“Instead of absorbing a hit, I’m initiating it,” Garrison said.
His body is allowing him to compete for the starting job against Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood, Rushel Shell and Andrew Buie.
“My mindset is just to do everything 100 percent. If I go out there and do everything I can on the field and off of it, I’ll feel pretty good,” he said. “I just have to fight and be the best running back.”
Come fall, if he continues to play like he has throughout the spring, the West Virginia coaches will be forced to put him in the backfield.
“Dustin (Garrison) can play when he plays like that, there’s no doubt,” Dawson said. “People have seen it. It was really good to see him come out and play like that.”