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:

Lyn-J Dixon – fifth year

WVU running back Lyn-J Dixon gets wrestled out of bounds after a big run in spring practice on April 2, 2022. (Photo: Anjelica Trinone)

Neal Brown went to the transfer portal to bolster a running back room that doesn’t have a lot of game experience. Dixon fills that void after spending the past four seasons at Clemson.

He redshirted last season after appearing in three games. He had a breakout freshman campaign for the Tigers, rushing for 547 yards and five touchdowns on 62 carries. Those numbers went up the following season. He finished with 104 carries for 635 yards and six touchdowns. He also caught 14 passes for 121 yards.

As a junior, Dixon’s number of carries dwindled, but he did post a career-long, 52-yard kickoff return. Coach Brown called Dixon a “home-run” hitter in the spring.

In the spring game, Dixon capped the opening drive with a 7-yard touchdown.

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.

Behind Mathis, the anticipated starter at the position, expect to see a combination of Dixon and Johnson Jr.

“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:

From now until the end of June, visit for daily roster analysis. All stories can also be viewed on the free Gold and Blue Nation app, which is available for download on Apple and Android devices. 

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